Liquid Gold
Tansy Rayner Roberts

Cover The first thing I noticed upon seeing this book was NOT seeing the main character. Liquid Gold is the sequel to Tansy's first novel Splashdance Silver. The end of that book left a lot of scope for further adventures with Kassa and her crew. As a result I was expecting to see Kassa portrayed prominently on the cover of this book. Instead there is a new character to add to the Mocklore cast.

When I started reading it became obvious why Kassa was not as prominently featured on the cover as she was in the first book. She dies on page 36! However, Kassa was never one to follow the traditional path and doesn't let her untimely demise stand in her way, but I'm getting side-tracked.

The new character is a mercenary called Sparrow. She is Amazonian in build and temperament. She is on a mission for the Sultan of Zibria to steal the liquid gold of the title. Sparrow accomplishes the theft with alacrity, but encounters a few problems in returning to Zibria. The creator of the liquid gold wants it back. It is on her way back to Zibria Sparrow encounters the crew of the Splashdance Silver, in mourning for Kassa.

This book explores a lot more of the universe Tansy is building up. Not only do the characters travel around Mocklore and neighboring states, but also down into the Underworld and sideways into the OtherRealm. The influence of Tansy's Classical studies can clearly be seen in the nature of these places.

There's not much more I can say about the story without giving away important bits of the plot.

Liquid Gold is an unusual book in that there are both two principle characters and one principle character. How can there be both two and one main characters? As I've said the principle character is Sparrow, who features on the cover. She is the driving force behind the majority of events within the book. At the same time though, Kassa is moving around in the background until the conclusion where she takes centre stage from Sparrow. The book finishes with Kassa. It seems Kassa is going to be the central point of the Mocklorian universe Tansy is creating, but each tale set within Kassa's sphere may have a different main character.

Tansy's writing has improved in this book. There were a few, very few, places in Splashdance Silver where some of the dialogue and narration didn't flow smoothly. Liquid Gold has seamless language. Each scene moves easily into the next. The characters are real and believable. The smoothness of writing I see may not be because Tansy's writing has improved, but because I've become more familiar with her style having now read two books. Or it could be a combination of both these factors. Whatever the case, I found Liquid Gold to be a more polished book than Splashdance Silver.

Having just said this, I think Splashdance Silver shows greater imagination and originality. A large proportion of Liquid Gold is based around Roman mythology, the standard feeding ground for much of the fantasy genre. As such it is overly familiar. This doesn't mean Liquid Gold is boring to read, far from it. Tansy's characters and her humor add a unique twist to the familiar fantasy icons.

Liquid Gold is better written, but Splashdance Silver has a slightly better story. It's half a dozen of one and six of the other. On balance I feel Splashdance Silver is the better of the two books for it's originality, but both books are excellent and well worth reading.

I find the complexity of Tansy's stories and the humor of her writing a riveting and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, as I was loathe to put this book down (almost missed my train stop once) I had it read in a handful of days and now have to wait a year for the next Mocklore chronicle.

Oh, beware of canaries!