Saturday, 28 November 2009
Review: A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin
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 ...
Ooops.... I bought this book by mistake! Hey, at least I am honest! I read the synopsis on Amazon and assumed that it was a YA novel. It was only as I started reading the first chapter that I realised that it was definitely written for the adult urban fantasy market. A little research revealed that Kate Griffin is the name that the brilliant Carnegie Medal-nominated author, Catherine Webb, uses when writing fantasy novels for adults. Being a big fan of Ms Webb's Horatio Lyle series, and already being intrigued by the style of her prose in the opening chapters of the book, I decided to read on.... and I definitely wasn't disappointed.
So what is a review of this book doing on a blog about books suitable for boys? Well, firstly I wouldn't want someone to make the same mistake as I did by buying the book thinking it was aimed at the YA market, and secondly it is a very good read for any older boys who have grown up on a diet of Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman and want to progress onto something a little more challenging. And it is challenging - it took me a while to get into it, but once I did I couldn't put it down. Ms Griffin's prose slowly draws you in and before you know it another hour has passed.
So what attracted me to this book in the first place? Simply put.... I love historical and urban fantasy books set in London. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is one of my all time favourites, and I thought the Stoneheart trilogy by Charlie Fletcher was amazing, so the synopsis for A Madness of Angels was a a big pull.
Apart from her beautiful prose there are two other things that really stood out from this story for me. The first is the characters, which are all finely crafted. The author puts the same amount of love and care goes into the creation of the secondary characters as she does into Matthew Swift, her main character. But for me the characterisation is overshadowed by one thing - Ms Griffin's descriptions of London and the magic she has imagined there. Since reading Neverwhere and Charlie Fletcher's trilogy, visits to London have never seemed the same, and A Madness of Angels has now added to that sense of magic that I feel whilst walking around the capital.