Creatures of Charm and Hunger (The Diabolist’s Library)

Written by Molly Tanzer
Review by Fiona Alison

Towards the end of WWII, in a remote English village, two girls are being groomed to join the Société des Éclairées, an international diabolist organization bent on foiling the Nazis. Jane is the daughter of a single diabolist mother, and her Jewish friend, Miriam, has been sent out of Germany for safety by her diabolist parents. Jane is experimenting with flying (on a broomstick, no less), but her attempts fail until she commits an act forbidden by the Société – that of summoning a demon into her cat, thereby creating a familiar. All good witches need one! She doesn’t make a good choice of demon, however, and things go somewhat awry. Miriam’s parents have disappeared, and she suspects they have been taken by the Nazis. In a desperate attempt to save them, she tries a dangerous method disallowed by the Société, which involves using rather grotesque methods to take over the body of another creature – a bird, a fox, a bee, the Doctor’s ghastly nurse, even the Nazi doctor, who is conducting gruesome experiments on humans.

Tanzer’s world is exciting and credible, as though all the odd happenings are everyday events. Historical fantasy gives license to almost anything, but Tanzer never strays too far from the believable. The characters are a fascinating, eclectic mix. This is a story about relationships, trust and sacrifice – Miriam, in particular, pays a terrible price for her actions. The tension builds as the girls secretly work at their own plans until they are forced to work together to solve a greater threat. According to the author this is the third in the Creatures standalone trilogy, but I, for one, hope some of the characters will show up elsewhere. For readers of historical fantasy, this one should be added to your shelf.