Liquid Gold: Book 2 of the Mocklore Chronicles - Tansy Rayner Roberts
Random House Australia, September 1999, pb, 400pp, $15.95. Cover by Evert Ploeg.
Reviewed by Jonathan Strahan

Tansy Rayner Roberts first novel, the 1998 George Turner Prize winner Splashdance Silver, was a solid debut that showed the author clearly coming to grips with the demands of her craft, while occasionally struggling to emerge from the shadow of her heroes. In this, the second book to feature Karra Daggersharp and the crew of the Silver Splashdance, Roberts' writing is more effective and the book more accomplished, but the influence of Terry Pratchett remains a little too strong.

Splashdance Silver told of Kassa Daggersharp's struggle with her destiny, refusing to assume the legacy of either her pirate father or her witch mother while trying to make her own place in the world. Liquid Gold opens with Daggersharp firmly in control and casually pursuing a career of piracy. Things soon change though. At the close of Splashdance Silver, the goddess of Destiny left the fate of the crew of the Silver Splashdance in the hands of Lady Luck, and she is determined to enjoy herself.

Mistress Opia, a master brewer, has successfully completed the greatest experiment of all, turning gold into time. No sooner has she done so, than an unnamed assassin steals the liquid gold, setting off a series of incidents that see Kassa killed in a jewellery-related incident, her crew travelling through time in an attempt to bring her back from the dead, and the very structure of Mocklore itself beginning to unravel.

The plot of Liquid Gold is rather frenetic, and to detail too much would be to ruin Roberts' fun. Suffice it to say, this is comic fantasy, and very much in the Pratchett vein. There are witches and pirates, eccentric characters, and other odds and ends - the novel even opens with a view of Mocklore from space ala Pratchett. What is important, though, is that Roberts entertains. This kind of fiction depends upon inventiveness and timing -- the author has to be able to produce a non-stop flow of new and interesting characters and situations, while never forgetting that the point is to make us laugh. It is something that Terry Pratchett had made his stock in trade, and it's a skill that Roberts is clearly learning. In Splashdance Silver it seemed Roberts was reaching for her humor, stretching for the next gag. Here, things move somewhat more smoothly, and the comedy seems to come more naturally.

Liquid Gold is a solid sophomore effort from Roberts. Wearing her influences on her sleeve, she has managed a work that is superior to its predecessor, and that will satisfy comic fantasy fans. If she can take next year's Soapy Ballads in a slightly different direction, it shouldn't be long before Roberts has her own dedicated audience.

©1999 Jonathan Strahan.
This review originally appeared in Locus.