Comet Weather by Liz Williams (book review).

‘Comet Weather’ is a story of four half-sisters and the search for their mother, who has been missing for a year. That could easily be the opening line of the description of a common or garden family mystery/drama, with no fantastic elements whatsoever. Anyone expecting something like that has never read a Liz Williams book before.

We are introduced to the sisters in turn as they return to the family home from their divergent lives. The first several chapters contain nothing untoward, except for the occasional brief chat with a tree and their grandfather’s ghost. I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy novel before where the supernatural is so matter-of-fact, off-hand even, that it barely impinges on the real world reality of the setting.

In fact, for a book that travels so far into the weird as this, there’s a quite astonishing level of controlled subtlety here. This is no ‘Charmed’, where sisters discover their origins, abilities and purpose right from the beginning. For the most part, they are a fairly normal family…ok, normal-ish.

Bee has taken over the management of Mooncote, the family home in Somerset. Stella is a touring club DJ. Serena is a fairly successful fashion designer, with a teenage daughter. The youngest, Luna, is what the tabloids refer to as a new age traveller. There have been inter-family falling-outs which need to be sorted out before they can proceed with the search for their mother.

They learn that a comet is coming, but the otherworldly are ever vague, so they have little idea what that actually means, but they know it’s important and that they have things that will need to be done.

It’s a very complex storyline, which follows the sisters separately, in groups or all together in fairly short chapters that switch the action back and forth between them. There’s no omniscient narrator here, we learn as the sisters learn and they don’t know all until the very end. In fact, there are still many unanswered questions about their origins even then.

I won’t give too much away for fear of spoilers; the reader should discover the magic in this book as they walk the lych paths with the sisters. Lych paths are the route by which bodies are carried to the graveyard for burial. I will simply mention that one of the sisters has a very unusual boyfriend and they regularly encounter what are referred to as ‘Behenian Stars’.

The story’s extraordinarily well thought out. I doubt I’ve ever read such a convincing amalgamation of the weird with a real world background. At no point do we need to call into question how the population at large can possibly remain unaware of the weirdness that surrounds them.

The editing is as exemplary as I’ve come to expect from NewCon Press. The writing is flawless and gripping. I thought for quite a while on how best to put it…I felt at home in this book! I found myself being forced to stop several times because I simply couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, otherwise I might have finished it in a single sitting. I was very happy to learn that a sequel is already in the works. I’m genuinely looking forward to it.

Dave Brzeski

April 2020

Get it in the UK from https://amzn.to/2RUHknj

Get it in the USA from https://amzn.to/2RUHknj

(pub: Newcon Press, 2020. 302 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ (UK), $ (US). ISBN: 978-1-912950-46-1)

check out website: www.newconpress.co.uk

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