Molly Tanzer’s Creatures of Will and Temper is one of the slowest burning novels I can remember reading. At first I wasn’t sure if the long set up was entirely necessary—in fact, I thought I was misremembering the reviews I’d read of the book because nothing that I’d expected happened until much later. My patience was rewarded. The ending of this book is not only exciting to read, it also takes all of that background to create a very meaningful story about two needful sisters who dive into the seductions presented to them when they visit London without entirely considering the costs of getting what they think they want.
Evadne and Dorina are the most disparate sisters one could imagine. Evadne is reserved, proper, and very protective of her younger sister. Unfortunately, Dorina doesn’t appreciate that protectiveness. She is much more worldly than Evadne and she’s also a lot more willing to embrace her sexuality and joie de vivre. When they are dispatched to London—Dorina to learn more about art so that she can become an art critic and Evadne to keep an eye on her—they continue their pattern of sisterly antagonism. That antagonism ratchets up after Dorina meets and falls for Lady Henry Wotton. Evadne is powerless to stop her sister from making what she feels is a scandalous mistake. Dorina, meanwhile, is having the time of her life. The only thing that makes life bearable for Evadne is joining a fencing club and sparring with a great teacher, George Cantrell.
The first half of the book gives us a deep look into the sisters’ psychology. Even though they are very different, I felt for both of them. Evadne’s disappointment in love and her sensitivity to teasing made my heart ache for her. Meanwhile, Dorina wants Lady Henry’s love and a slice of the woman’s life of aesthetic pleasure. For all their differences, they both suffer the agonies of unrequited love.
I was starting to think that this is what Creatures of Will and Temper was going to be, despite the tantalizing hints of something supernatural going on in the background. But then, the twists started coming. Dorina and Evadne are introduced to the secret doings of humans and demons and the stakes rise astronomically. Because we know so much about the sister, I think the last half of the book meant more than it might have if we’d been dropped into the diabolical deep end at the beginning. We know how hard is for the sisters to overcome their emotional struggles and how much their mettle is tested.
I loved the last half of Creatures of Will and Temper. It made the first half worth reading. I marveled at the twists, betrayals, and reversals packed into the last half. There was so much going on and it was so well done that I couldn’t put the book down last night until I’d finished it. I had to know what happened to Evadne and Dornia; I had to know if they got their richly deserved happy endings.
Notes for Bibliotherapeutic Use: Recommend to squabbling siblings.