Scoop Review of Books

Southern Fantasy

Book Review
The Kingfisher’s Debt by Kura Carpenter (IFWG Publishing Australia, Amazon Kindle $6.88; paper $35.95)
Reviewed by Rachel Stedman

kingfisher-debut-coverIt’s been a long time since I’ve read such an engrossing urban fantasy. This wonderfully written story is sure to appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Brandon Sanderson or Maggie Stiefvater.

Okay, so the plot summary: It’s midwinter in Dunedin. Solstice, when the nights are long and magic powers ebb. Tamsin Fairchild, part-time Power worker, part-time occult expert (and full-time criminal) is hired to help find a missing baby by the Dunedin Police.

As the story unfolds, the reader gradually learns about the Fair Folk of the Dunedin, their Elemental rivals, and their darkly exciting, half-hidden world. Initially, the story comes across as a who-dunnit starring snarky Tamsin, but as the plot unfolds a deeper tale emerges, of plotting and betrayal and forbidden Bloodmagic.

The story moves skilfully from present day to past, without losing the reader in the narrative. Time-hopping is a difficult technique to pull off, as there’s a good chance you’ll risk slowing the plot or confusing the reader – so kudos to Carpenter for managing it in a debut novel.

The Kingfisher’s Debt is a gritty read in places, with an abused and damaged heroine, but the heart of the story is redemption and some fine, fine writing.

There’s so much to discover in this story – did you know there are hidden floors beneath the Dunedin Library, full of arcane knowledge. And to get in, you need to lick a piece of paper!? But beware, because if you try to tell others about this secret library, your tongue is forever tied?

The Kingfisher’s Debt needs re-reading, and I’ve just purchased the hard copy so I can read it again. The Dunedin setting is fabulous, okay so I live in Dunedin so I’m biased – but the evocativeness of the Victoriana, the midwinter darkness and the 80s kitsch of St Clair really work. And the Mustangs and the muscle cars are great too. I also found it a huge pleasure to read an urban fantasy told from a female perspective.

Don’t know what else to say really, except this book is perfect for goth-loving teens, all librarians ever and anyone who loves urban fantasy. I really hope there’s another book coming, as I want to know more about this world.