A review of Cat Rambo's Beasts of Tabat
Cat Rambo's Beasts of Tabat will be published by Wordfire Press in March 2015.
Information about Cat Rambo:
Cat Rambo writes and reads by the shore of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 150+ original fiction publications include appearances in Asimov's, Weird Tales, and Tor.com. She has been nominated for the Endeavor, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award, and is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about Beasts of Tabat:
When countryboy Teo arrives in the coastal city of Tabat, he finds it a hostile place, particularly to a boy hiding an enormous secret. It's also a city in turmoil, thanks to an ancient accord to change governments and the rising demands of Beasts, the Unicorns, Dryads, Minotaurs and other magical creature on whose labor and bodies Tabat depends. And worst of all, it's a city dedicated to killing Shifters, the race whose blood Teo bears.
When his fate becomes woven with that of Tabat's most famous gladiator, Bella Kanto, his existence becomes even more imperiled. Kanto's magical battle determines the weather each year, and the wealthy merchants are tired of the long winters she's brought. Can Teo and Bella save each other from the plots that are closing in on them from all sides?
A REVIEW OF CAT RAMBO'S BEASTS OF TABAT
Cat Rambo's Beasts of Tabat is the first novel in The Tabat Quartet. It will be followed by Hearts of Tabat, Exiles in Tabat and Gods of Tabat.
Beasts of Tabat was a very pleasant surprise for me, because it turned out to be an excellent and refreshingly different kind of a fantasy novel with a touch of bittersweetness. To be honest, I'm tempted to say that this novel is an exceptionally good fantasy novel, because Cat Rambo shows genuine talent for creating an intriguing fantasy world with three-dimensional protagonists.
This novel has plenty of originality and quality, because the author avoids using clichés (there are many well-known elements, but the author uses them in a good way). Although this novel is clearly a fantasy novel, it has a few elements that can - at least partly - be considered to be new weirdish elements. In my opinion this novel is slightly reminiscent of Rjurik Davidson's new weirdish fantasy novel, Unwrapped Sky, because there are a few similarities.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Teo is being sent to Tabat by his parents to have a better life among the Priests. A Priest called Grave is taking him there, but something happens during the journey and Grave is badly injured. Soon Teo manages to escape and finds himself all alone in Tabat. Then he meets Bella...
The characterization is flawless, because the author has created interesting and realistic protagonists. Teo and Bella are richly drawn characters that have their own feelings and opinions. The author fluently explores what kind of feelings they have of the happenings, politics and other people, and she doesn't sugarcoat anything that happens to them.
Here's a bit of information Teo and Bella:
- Teo is one of the Shifters, but he can't shapeshift. He feels bad about it, because he's different from the other persons in his village. He's sent away from his home so that he could have a good life elsewhere.
- Bella Kanto is a Gladiator and a Champion of the city. Alberic, the Duke of Tabat, is her lover and they often come together after Bella has won a fight. Bella also has female lovers.
The author writes realistically about what happens between Teo and Bella. When Bella takes Teo into her home and offers shelter to him, their lives become entwined with each other. It was nice that the author explored their lives from both point of views, because it added depth to the story.
In my opinion Cat Rambo wrote well about what happened between Bella and her many lovers, because Bella's feelings towards her lovers were explored in a deep way. For example, Bella's relationship with Adelina was handled in a good and realistic way (at first they were lovers, but when Bella began to avoid her, they became friends and managed to stay friends for many years).
The worldbuilding is excellent. The author has created a fascinating and richly drawn fantasy world that is inhabited by Humans, Beasts, Shifters etc. The world feels believable and realistic, because the author pays attention to many minor details and writes about what may happen to people and beings. She slowly reveals new wonders and horrors about the world and thus deepens the reading experience in a wonderful way.
Reading about Tabat was intriguing for me, because many Beasts had suffered and died in the city. Dryads were being burned alive each day in order to strip the magic from their bones to fuel the aetheric lights, the Great Tram and other machineries that kept Tabat running. Because the Beasts had suffered and continued to suffer there, discontentment was in the air.
Although there's plenty of beauty and diversity in this novel's fantasy world, the world can be a cruel and savage place - especially for those who are not Humans. Shifters were being exterminated and burned in Tabat, because Humans hated Shifters. Humans also enslaved Beasts and treated them badly in many ways. Humans did extreme things to Beasts to make sure that they behaved well.
It was great that every once in a while the author revealed interesting details about the world to her readers. For example, fairy bites and stings were dangerous. It was fascinating to read about how fairy bites and stings were treated, because you had to act quickly or the consequences would be deadly.
It was very intriguing that the ritual fights of the Gladiators determined the weather in the city. Because Winter had won for a long time, the Merchants were becoming annoyed and wanted Spring to win. This added nice tension to the story.
What makes this novel especially interesting is that at first it may feel a bit young adultish because of the teenage protagonist, Teo, but it soon develops into a complex adult fantasy novel with surprisingly dark undertones. This novel has a wonderfully dark and compelling undercurrent that runs throughout the story, because there are harsh and realistic moments that break the illusion of a pretty and innocent story.
One of the best things about this novel is that Cat Rambo has created a bit different kind of a growing up story for Teo. Because I've read many novels in which young male protagonists easily grow up to be heroes etc, it was refreshing to read how Teo had to struggle in order to survive and how difficult things were for him. Teo's problems added realism to the story.
I can honestly say that Cat Rambo's Beasts of Tabat is one of the best and most interesting fantasy novels I've had the pleasure to read during recent years. I look forward to reading its sequel, Hearts of Tabat, because it'll be interesting to see how the story continues.
This novel dares to be different and it offers excellent entertainment to readers who want to read good and thought-provoking stories. It's a fascinating combination of fantasy, magic and fight against oppression. I'm sure that this novel will appeal to readers who are interested in quality fantasy.
An excellent fantasy novel!