Thursday, 16 May 2013

Stray Souls

It started with a Facebook group; Weird Shit Keeps Happening to Me And I Don’t Know Why But Figure I Need Help. When Sharon Li starts to find herself turning invisible as she walks the streets of London, she has no one to turn to for help. So she starts a support group, with tea and biscuits. But there is something missing in the city and as a shaman, it’s up to Sharon to do something about it. Sharon would just like to keep her crappy job serving coffee, but the Midnight Mayor and the goblin Sammy have different ideas.

It was raining when Sharon Li became one with the city.

The rain may have had nothing to do with her moment of profound spiritual revelation but is worth mentioning just in case. The kebab she was eating definitely had nothing to do with it but will prove relevant in the sense that if she hadn’t dropped it onto her trousers, she might have stood in the rain a little longer marvelling at the majesty of the universe, which could have had long-term medical impact and thus affected the course of events yet to come.

I didn’t realise the Magicals Anonymous series was a spin-off from the Matthew Swift one but I don’t think it matters; this is the first of her books I’ve read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the idea of the support group and the fact that these mythical creatures embrace the modern world. How often do we read in fantasy that something about their very nature stops them from using mod-cons? It’s refreshing that Sharon googles stuff to find out her answers (even if it’s not always that helpful).

There’s a vampire with a rare condition who can only drink group O blood, a situation only made worse by his obsession with hygiene and screening his victims first. There’s a wonderful banshee who loves modern art and, in order to be polite, writes everything down on a whiteboard instead of wailing like a banshee. A girl who turns into a flock of pigeons and a druid who is allergic to magic. A troll with a taste for human food. And the fate of London in in the hands of this motley crew.

“Might I have another cup of tea?” Rhys was at the kettle before Mrs Rafaat had completed her request. This was something he did know how to accomplish. In the confusion of recent hours, replete with human sacrifice, blood-soaked monsters and a CEO with an ambitious and unusual business model, tea was a lighthouse in a stormy sea.

The dialogue is fantastically real. People don’t talk in complete, grammatically correct sentences all the time. The speech is broken, punctuated by uhs and ums. Little snippets of the city filter through to Sharon, presented in incomplete sentences but somehow completely capturing the mood of a city; all the secrets it contains and tableaus of everyday life. The city itself is a character and I love these sorts of fantasy books that are creeping out of the UK recently. Even down to the rubbish; I just adored the scene where they are attacked by plastic bags. Not to mention the evil bankers. Brilliant!

I did find Sharon overly negative. She has a real attitude problem and the tone is a bit snarky in places, but as her tribe rallies around her, she starts to become more likeable. Her anger is her shield. I don’t think it helped that Sammy had a similar personality, so when it was just them it was a bit much to take. When interacting with the other characters, things picked up.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book two this summer, The Glass God, and I might well be tempted to check out her other books for adults. Kate Griffin is the pen-name of children's writer Catherine Webb.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive


4 comments:

  1. So do you not have to have read all of (or any of) the Matthew Swift books to dive into this one?

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    1. I didn't feel I was missing out on anything (I only found out after I'd read it). Not sure if there would be spoilers for the other books but Matthew only has a small part in this one.

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  2. This sounds fantastic *wishlisted*. I also love these rather unique fantasy/paranormal novels that are appearing more and more.

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  3. It's sounds super intriguing and different, too. I love the idea of the talk being closer to reality, too. I hadn't heard about this one before, but now I'm keeping my eye open for it!

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