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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

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Review of Stray Souls – Book 1 of the Magicals Anonymous series by Kate Griffin

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This is set in the same world – and the same backdrop – as Griffin’s highly successful Midnight Mayor series, featuring Matthew Swift as her conflicted and very powerful protagonist. So – given that such a very strong hero is having to make room for Sharon Li and her group of maladjusted magic-users – does this series have the same star quality evident in the Midnight Mayor books?

When Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she finds herself called upon to use her newfound oneness with the City to straysoulsrescue it from a slow but inevitable demise.

The problem is, while everyone expects her to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor himself to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start. But now that London’s soul is gone, the Gate is open and the hunt begins.

Like the Midnight Mayor series, this is definitely one for the adults. Sammy the Elbow, the world’s second best shaman, sprinkles his dialogue with language almost as foul as his smell…

This book is written in multiple viewpoint, so we get a ringside seat to the struggles of Rhys, a druid forced to shelter from Nature due to his chronic hay fever; Gretel the troll, who wants to cook; Sally the banshee, who writes everything down on a whiteboard so that her magically-enhanced voice doesn’t drive men mad; Kevin, the vampire who has major issues with blood – along with any other fluids that may pose a risk of infection… Even Matthew Swift, the Midnight Mayor isn’t particularly effective – his specialty being to blow things up in a messy destructive manner, whereas this job requires finesse. I’ve enjoyed all the Midnight Mayor books and come to admire Griffin’s writing talent – however my misgiving was that with such a very powerful main character, the forces ranged against him also had to be equally huge, or there was no real plot. But, the motley crew surrounding Sharon certainly don’t fall into that category.

I expected an action-packed plot wound full of tension and vivid descriptions of some of the less wholesome parts of London, which I certainly got – but what was a delightful surprise were the laugh-aloud moments. And this book is full of them. Griffin’s humour is pitch-perfect and a wonderful counterpoint to the full-on action and pathos. A book that leaves me with a lump in my throat while making me laugh always has a special place in my heart – it doesn’t happen all that often. Matt Haig’s The Radleys was the last time I read one of these rare novels…

And if Griffin’s descriptions leap off the page, then her dialogue is a joy – pin-sharp, funny and perceptive. With such a strong cast of interesting characters, Sharon’s slightly desperate flailings to discover just exactly what she should be doing could have been completely eclipsed by the likes of Rhys and Kevin. Yet Griffin avoids that pitfall with the same deftness that she handles the issue of how to neutralise a magically potent protagonist such as Matthew Swift.  Her simmering anger at social injustice that produced the King of Rats, the tribe and the Bag Lady is still apparent in Griffin’s character, Greydawn.

As for the ending, it was beautifully handled – both satisfying and poignant. All in all, while Griffin’s books have always been excellent, Stray Souls is outstanding and the best urban fantasy book I’ve read this year.
10/10