A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Rating 7.2/10
An engaging book, stylishly written.

When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson

In fact, Dr Johnson was only half right. There is in London much more than life - there is power. It ebbs and flows with the rhythms of the city, makes runes from the alignments of ancient streets and hums with the rattle of trains and buses; it waxes and wanes with the patterns of the business day. It is a new kind of magic: urban magic. Enter a London where magicians ride the Last Train, implore favours of The Beggar King and interpret the insane wisdom of The Bag Lady. Enter a London where beings of power soar with the pigeons and scrabble with the rats, and seek insight in the half-whispered madness of the blue electric angels. Enter the London of Matthew Swift, where rival sorcerers, hidden in plain sight, do battle for the very soul of the city...

Urban fantasy / magic realism in London. We're dropped into a body in present day London. Eventually we come to realise that it is the body of Matthew Swift, sorcerer, deceased. Or he was, until now. Bless, he then finds out all his friends are dead, killed by the same thing that killed him – a shadow known as Hunger. Quickly found by a bunch of 'concerned citizens' he begins to track who he suspects had him killed, and the author begins to reveal just how Matthew came back – and what he is now. Come be we, come be free.

While not a totally original concept, the voice and style of this piece are beautiful – if a bit heavy to read in large chunks at a time. London is both faithfully described and an entirely new and otherwordly place, if only you know its secrets. Characters are brought to life almost effortlessly it seems, and everything seems believable within the world the author has built. And what a world it is! Warlocks in London, Bikers who can slip through gaps in time/space to get there faster, train tickets that can save you from certain death and blue electric angels crooning siren songs in the phone lines.

Unfortunately the lavish description sometimes slows the pace to a crawl. The author likes to keep things from the reader too – which seems odd as it's written in First Person. The narrator is Matthew Swift, and he doesn't tell us what he knows. Indeed, it was several pages before I knew the narrator was male, and dozens before I knew his name. And Matthew knows what he is, at least partially, but the reader is kept in the dark. Tricky to pull off in first person without annoying the reader, and only partially successful here, for me at least. Every time he revealed something I asked myself 'Couldn't you have told me earlier rather than making a big mystery about it?' It felt a little like cheating.

Still, an engaging book, stylishly written.

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A Madness of Angels reader reviews

from Canada

9-stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very Neil Gaiman-ish. Though many criticize the author's withholding of information about Matthew, I found the mystery of it engaging and kept me from putting this book down. The writing is superb, the story flows and the story becomes quite believable. I was quite surprised to find out that Kate Griffin was only 23 when she wrote this book. Very worth the read!

8.1/10 from 2 reviews

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