With more than its fair share of Magic and Monsters, Kate Griffith's offers up plenty of clever ideas and characters wrapped in a London that is recognisable, but never in a tour guide book kind of way.
For me, part of the fun in reading these books is recognising the places I live and play in all neatly wrapped in a believable, evolving mythology. It is this growing mythology that lends itself to smart turns enjoyed through surprising plot twists and the different and unexpected characters and groups who populate this magical London.
Swift is a character who would sit easily as a supernatural counter-point to the BBC's Dr Who (sci-fi), Sherlock Holmes (crime and logic) and Dirk Gently (the metaphysical). He's an urban magician, in the vein of John Constantine, though less cynical and with perhaps more of a sense of community to the London he resides in, though never quite rules over.
An alloy of man and magic, Matthew Swift is a character comfortable in his own (shared) skin, sometimes naïve in his dogmatic approach, but not all together innocent. He has a sense of how difficult life can be for your average, and less than average Londoner, and how magic, more often than not, only adds to that difficulty.
In this book Matthew seems to have put his own stamp on the role of Midnight Mayor, and the fractious relationship with the Aldermen has developed its own rhythm and expectation. Griffith builds on familiar themes of the powerful and mighty being out of touch with, and caring little for, the low and lowly. While Matthew Swift's social conscience is more in the fore, Griffith seems to be having more fun with him as he increasingly grows into his prestigious role.
And just like her man, Kate Griffiths writing is developing with each novel to become what is an enjoyable and readable writing style.
My only gripes are that occasionally characters I've gotten to like (or at least gotten used to) disappear just as they become familiar links into a particular magical group.
Some groups and characters can seem a little familiar and touch on the clichéd but I guess you don't need to reinvent the wheel when the rest of the vehicle is so interesting.
There are also touches of Harry Potter in the way the common world has a magical parallel (Night buses and magical NHS) though these are generally handled quite well and can be amusing.
Lets face it, at only 24 years of age Kathy Griffiths (her `nom de plum') generally comes up with something fresh and unexpected which, for the most part, all works fine, and she seems willing to put the pressure on herself to come up with a new take on an tried idea. Her writing and ideas are already good, and with this book you can really feel the kind of great writer that experience could make her.
I've found all four books a real treat to read, liked this one a lot, and look forward to more from Kathy Griffiths.