Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Glass God (Urban Fantasy)

In The Glass God, the latest novel in the Magicals Anonymous Series by Kate Griffin, Sharon Lu, consummate magical community social worker, and the Magical Anonymous Support Group must again save London from potential death and doom. Matthew Swift, the Midnight Mayor, is missing. He seems to suspect that something bad is about to happen. He tells Kelley, his amazing personal assistant, that if anything happens to him, Sharon should be made Deputy Midnight Mayor, given an umbrella that he found, and, of course, given donuts. Becoming deputy mayor is a major undertaking for a young shaman in training, but Sharon and her faithful assistant and druid Rhys rise to the task. They discover that Old Man Bones is about to unleash the plague on The City because someone is stealing his sacrifices. In addition, the very office of the Midnight Mayor is at stake, because Matthew is neither dead nor alive. If he were dead, someone else would have the mark of the Midnight Mayor appear on their hand and take over the role to protect London from magical harm. If he were alive, he could fight the forces of evil or, suggests an Alderman, be killed so that another person could take his place. An upcoming group suggests that the Midnight Mayor and Old Man Bones are old magic and a new god should take over control of the magic of London. Can Sharon, Magicals Anonymous, and the Aldermen work together to save London?

While The Glass Gods is so, so much more amusing than the novels in the Matthew Swift Series, it does contain scenes of horror and moral dilemma. While Sharon and Kelley are sometimes portrayed as somewhat fluffy characters, their dark sides definitely come out in this novel. They both continue to grow. Whether Griffin meant to do it intentionally or it is a flaw in the novel, at times there is overlap in the characters of Sharon and Kelley.  In a few spots I couldn’t tell them apart. For most of the novel, they are very different characters.

The Glass God is lots of fun, and I missed it when I was done reading. Griffin sees to hint at events to come, so I am curious how the storylines will play out.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Matthew Swift & Magicals Anonymous (Urban Fantasy Series)

Okay, so they aren’t great literature. I don’t care. The Matthew Swift Series and Magicals Anonymous Series by Catherine Webb, writing as Kate Griffin, are fun, interesting, and occasionally thought provoking. They are “good reads” that help me forget about my life for awhile. For all practical purposes, they are one series or perhaps a series and a follow up series. The settings are the same. Storylines continue from one series, especially the fourth book in the Matthew Swift Series, to the other.

So much of magic in literature is based on a worldview that is centuries old: bell, book, and candle. What if magic evolved or had an upgrade? Kate Griffin shows us that world. Creatures are made up of things, particularly discards, from an urban environment. The Electric Blue Angels were created from the remnants of energy left in the phone lines. One of the monsters was created from old shopping bags. Griffin shows us how fairies, Medusas, Scylla, banshees, shamans, and others change to adapt to the modern, urban environment. Magic, instead of being created from nature, is created from what is available in the city. Matthew uses such things as beer bottles and kabobs for his magic. In one of the novels, a summoner is described as an emotionally immature, teenager techno-geek, who orders part of what he needs on-line.

The combined series take place in modern-day London. Griffin begins by saying that there are two groups that oversee London. The first is a mundane group of officials that preside over public ceremonies, go to events where food is served, and take care of the ordinary cares of The City. The second group was created at the very birth of The City to preserve it, particularly from errant magical forces. The second group is composed of black-clad Aldermen with heavy duty magical powers and is traditionally led by the Midnight Mayor, who in some ways is an intimate part of The City itself. The City is personified by an ancient dragon, who is both London and its people.

I started by reading the first book in the Magicals Anonymous Series, read the four books in the Matthew Swift Series, and then read the second, latest, book in the Magicals Anonymous Series. I am not sure how much I missed or gained by reading the books out of order.

The Matthew Swift Series is, appropriately, about Matthew Swift, a murdered sorcerer reincarnated along with the Electric Blue Angels. He is both a “he” and a “we.” The series is a bit on the depressing side. Matthew is, for the most part, alone. He is often betrayed. By creating the Magicals Anonymous Series, it seems that Griffin is appealing to readers who basically liked the first series, but wanted something a bit more upbeat. In the new series, Sharon Lu leads a support group for the magically challenged. She and her cohorts work together to save The City. Although still dark and horrifying at times, the second series is warmer and funnier, while preserving much of what was good in the first series. At least in the first two books, Matthew continues to have a role, as does his personal assistant, Kelley, and his apprentice, Penny.

Yes, a reader can understand and enjoy Magicals Anonymous without reading the Matthew Swift Series. On the other hand, the reader would miss part of the backstory.

Matthew Swift Series
Magicals Anonymous Series

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Minority Council (Urban Fantasy)

You can’t save everyone…You can’t save those who don’t want to be saved…You can’t save your friends…You can’t save yourself. 

When I finished reading The Minority Council, the fourth novel in Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift series, I was left wondering whether the Minority Council was filled with misguided evildoers or with self-sacrificing individuals who had tried to teach Matthew Swift a much needed lesson in being the Midnight Mayor of London. The Minority Council is decidedly less depressing than The Neon Court. Yes, a number of people die, some horrifically. But, Matthew has a perky new personal assistant, and in this novel he is not tasked with saving London from some dread fate. In addition, Penny continues to be “student, savior, and punishment.”

Three people ask Matthew for his help. The first is Meera, a fairy dust addict. The second is Nabeela, who works for the regular Council and is trying to uncover the cause of one young man’s death and the disappearance of the souls of numerous other young men. The third is the Beggar King, who is concerned about the disappearance of a number of his subjects and warns Matthew not to trust anyone. Matthew soon learns about the existence of the Minority Council, composed of Aldermen who “carry on the tradition of what the Aldermen have been, of what the Midnight Mayor should be.” Matthew attempts to undo the wrongs done by the Minority Council and others, but will he pay a horrible price? Matthew definitely grows up as Midnight Mayor in this novel.

Some of the last sections of the novel introduce the reader to the characters who will take center stage in the Magicals Anonymous series. In a way I am sad to see the Matthew Swift series come to a close. While it was a bit dark, it also had some interesting character development and, of course, wonderful urban magic.