Tales of Catt and Fisher: The Art of the Steal Edited by Justina Robson
Rebellion, pbk, £9.99
Reviewed by Ian Hunter
For fans of “Redemption’s Blade” by Adrian Tchaikovsky and the follow-up “Salvation’s Fire” by Justina Robson comes a collection of four stories featuring those treasure-seekers (and a whole lot more), Doctors Catt and Fisher. Their time has come in a brave new world struggling to rise from the ashes of the old one now that the Kinslayer War is over. In this broken world, there are a whole load of interesting and profitable possibilities involving the procurement of all that magical treasure just waiting to be found for those willing to take the risk.
Edited by Robson, we are presented with four stories by Tchaikovsky, Freda Warrington, Juliet McKenna and KT Davies. The first three writers I am familiar with, but Davies is new to me. Regardless of how well known they are and their pedigree as writers, the question remains; can they remain true to the characters and their world, and deliver a fast, furious and fun story which also makes the reader think after the story has come to an end?
Given that Tchaikovsky created these characters, you would expect them to be true to form in his story called “Belt and Bracers”, which mixes comedy and tragedy. It is the perfect opener for this quartet of stories and is perhaps a bit more lightweight than the stories which follow. Next under the spotlight is Freda Warrington’s story “Secrets and Lights”, which features new characters galore, monsters and witty one-liners from the good (or not so good) Doctors who remain off stage for large parts of this epic adventure. Prepare to be entertained. Juliet McKenna certainly entertains in her story “Taking Note”, but this is a more sombre, thoughtful affair, dealing with the aftermath of war and its consequences, revealing a serious side to Catt and Fisher. The final story, “The Unguis of Maug” by KT Davies, introduces some memorable secondary characters in the form of an ex-Knight called Bailey Dannoch, who veers between being an alcoholic or a man with a mission. We also meet a streetwise kid called Ash, who isn’t wise enough not to try and steal from our two doctors and has little choice but to become an unwilling apprentice.
All four writers here certainly answered the question of whether or not they could be faithful to the original characters, as well as adding to them and illuminating the world they inhabit, and lending their own particular voice to the proceedings, and who knows? Perhaps some of these four writers will visit the Doctors’ shop in the future and expand on the scenarios they have created.
Fantasy fiction is littered with great double-acts from Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser to Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool, or Michael Moorcock’s Elric and Moonglum. If Catt and Fisher keep making quality appearances like this, they’ll soon be up there with the best fantasy duos of all time.