23 March 2011

Review: A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Paperback, Orbit Books, 2009

Not part of the TBR challenge this one, just one of those books you read and are desperate to tell people about. I've already bought a second copy and sent it off to the US as a gift to a friend.

While a-lurking on twitter recently I saw the campaign to help the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. Now Wood Green is not a million miles from me, and the BGB is probably the closest independent after the Chorleywood Bookshop, so it seemed only right to do something to help them stay afloat. I picked through their recommended reads and mail ordered this one and Weirdstone of Brisingham (haven't read that one yet - soon my pretty, soon).

Oh my. This is the point where I should give an accurate precis of the plot and say what I liked and what I didn't. However, I'm a lazy so-and-so and a terrible reviewer who just wants to immerse myself in a book without sitting outside it and noting what I liked and what I didn't. I'm just going to copy and paste the blurb at the end of the post and squeal, you have to read this book. London just pops off the page at you, the way it does in China Mieville's Kraken, even more so. It becomes a character itself, and if you have ever lived in London you will recognise it.

And now that I have got that out of my system maybe I do have a few little objective comments. Some of the sentences are huge and would earn a beginner writer like me a swift kick in the pants, but they work. The prose is dizzying; it drew me in and painted me a picture, and I found myself embracing the style and running with it, and so what if I'd be wheezing if I was reading it out loud. I loved Matthew Swift, who remained so very ordinary despite being anything but, and who made the very ordinariness of London work for him.

Most of all I loved that sense of place, the use of the real London and not just the shiny bits in the guidebooks. To me, books like this and Kraken are what urban fantasy is all about.

I think karma gave me a big kiss on the cheek with this one. Help an independent bookshop and be rewarded, because clearly those guys know their onions when it comes to recommending a good book. I'll be buying the next two books in the series from them too and reading them as soon as they get here.

A Madness of Angels, by Kate Griffin (as lifted from Amazon)
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 ...

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