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

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