Tag Archives: London

Review of The Glass God – Book 2 of The Magicals Anonymous by Kate Griffin

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This is the second book in Kate Griffin’s Magicals Anonymous series. Does it have the energy and humour that characterised the first book, Stray Souls?

glassgodSharon Li: apprentice shaman and community support officer for the magically inclined. It wasn’t the career Sharon had in mind, but she’s getting used to running Magicals Anonymous and learning how to Be One With The City. When the Midnight Mayor goes missing, leaving only a suspiciously innocent-looking umbrella behind him, Sharon finds herself promoted. Her first task: find the Midnight Mayor. The only clues she has are a city dryad’s cryptic warning and several pairs of abandoned shoes… Suddenly, Sharon’s job feels a whole lot harder.

So that’s the blurb – and well done Orbit for managing to produce a snappy, inviting teaser that avoids lurching into spoiler territory. While the action and viewpoint revolve around Sharon, she is assisted in her quest by the cast of characters that I so thoroughly enjoyed in Stray Souls. While I have warmed to Rhys, my standout favourite is Sammy the goblin, who is also Sharon’s shaman tutor and is to teaching what a housebrick is to flying – he calls Sharon ‘Soggy Brains’.

Sharon’s determinedly fair-minded and positive stance is given a major workout as she comes up against a number of unpleasant nasties in her pursuit of the Midnight Mayor. Having by now got used to Griffin’s humour, I was struck this time around at how the grim backdrop that took such a starring role in the Matthew Swift series is still very much in evidence. Griffin hasn’t eased up one jot on some of the more revolting corners of London, as the story rolls forward with all the energy and slickness we’ve come to expect from this author. We find ourselves laughing as some of the macabre violence teeters into farce, often as members of the Magicals Anonymous attempt to live up to the high ideals set by Sharon, or in the case of Kevin, the OCD vampire, invariably manage to put their foot in their mouths.

We also have a few new characters to enjoy – chiefly, Miles’ the minion. Inevitably, the baddies are hugely powerful and as Sharon finds herself working against the clock in an effort to save London, the increasing tension and climactic set piece in a famous London landmark is suitably impressive. And as Griffin has shown in the past that she is capable of offing a major character, I was holding my breath in case one of my favourites – Sammy, for instance – was a casualty in the cause of keeping London safe.

Griffin’s success in making her antagonist lethal, unpleasant and yet also poignantly damaged is one of the many reasons why The Glass God serves to reinforce Griffin’s reputation as one of the best urban fantasy writers in the world.
10/10

Review of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

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It isn’t that often I come across London-based Brit fantasy – as it happens, I was reading this as poor old London was still reeling from the depredations of a bunch of thieving mongrels. I’d pounced on this offering with some anticipation, particularly when I read Ben Aaronovitch’s c.v. The man is an experienced screen writer, with a number of tie-in novels under his belt – not that you’d need the biog on the back cover to tell you that. Just open up the book and read the first two paragraphs and you know you’re in the hands of someone who knows what he is doing…

riversoflondonMy name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – We do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I’m dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden – and that’s just routine. There’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying. Which, I don’t mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.

There you have it – a quirky, enjoyable adventure with lots of pace and humour, which nicely leavens the gorier moments. Peter is a coolly unflappable mixed-raced young Londoner with a very low boredom threshold, who is good at thinking on his feet. His laconic narrative, along with the long suffering observations about the labyrinth of police paperwork and procedures adds an extra twist of enjoyment to this tightly plotted piece of supernatural high jinks. As this is the first book in a series, I think Mr Aaronovitch has been very savvy in starting off in chirpy mode as in my experience, these urban fantasy serials tend to get progressively darker in tone. Just think of the difference in feel between Storm Front and Ghost Story in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, for instance.  Peter’s relationship with his enigmatic superior Detective Inspector Nightingale has clearly got legs. For starters, they live in a spooky neo-Gothic fortress, complete with a creepy housekeeper, (think Mrs Hudson with sharp teeth…) and a running gag about the odd combinations that turn up in the packed lunches.

One of the major characters in this book is mentioned in the title – London. Not only does Aaronovitch use some of the major tourist sites as backdrops to some of his set pieces, he also casually drops in actual café names and walks his readers through real neighbourhoods. In addition, he has woven the city’s history into this very contemporary tale – a really neat trick, as London’s past is part of its everyday richness. The patina of history lies as thickly as the traffic fumes along many of our capital’s streets – and Aaronovitch deftly mines this historical treasure trove to underpin his tale of mayhem and chaos. All in all, this is an enjoyable and accomplished novel, crackling with energy and humour and I forward to reading the next book.
10/10