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3.4 out of 5 stars7
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 July 2009
This is an extremely good start to a series - well-structured and original, with unexpected plot developments and convincing characters who are deep and finely-drawn enough to hold the reader's interest. Rather than just presenting us with a cardboard cut-out hardboiled-but-vulnerable heroine and bad-boy anti-hero, the author slowly peels back the layers of backstory at judicious intervals throughout the book to reveal credible reasons for Pete's prickliness and Jack's damage. She also avoids overstretching the suspension of disbelief that is necessary for any fantasy story, by inserting authentically gritty touches - such as the grim realities of using heroin to numb mental pain.

The Black and its assorted denizens are comparable to Simon Green's Nightside, but only to the extent that fans of that series are likely to enjoy this one. Jack Winter's physical description is a touch reminiscent of Spike in Buffy the Vampire slayer, but a sly reference to Billy Idol (to whom Spike is an homage) in the text indicates that this is a conscious credit rather than a crib.

So why only 3 stars? Because the catch is that while the book is set in London, it is not written by an English native, and while the direct speech might be enough like that of a Brit to be accepted in the US, to an English reader it sets the teeth on edge and spoils what is otherwise a very impressive read. The mistakes are subtle, but grating - 'bugger all', for instance, is generally slang for 'nothing' in UK English and is inaccurately used here. Nor does using 'bloody' as punctuation in almost every character's dialogue (it appears at least twice on every single page) substitute for an authentic written English accent - the general effect is of something translated from another tongue by someone to whom UK English is a second language - grammatically accurate but the vocabulary use is just a bit off. If Ms Kittredge sorts out this weakness in future books, the Black London novels could become one of the best new series to hit the fantasy arena.
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on 16 May 2010
I was very upset with this book.

First the style is awful. For instance action scenes are particularly difficult to follow and will end up in the most uninteresting manner, which is a real shame for this type of books...

Second the characters are really really irritating, and not always smart. For instance the heroine seems to have an unlikely attraction to skinny junkies who put her in trouble in the past. Obviously this past is not really explained, apart from one key event, and so this attraction is neither logical nor likely. The main hero is well, a junky. But the author must not have met enough junkies and therefore his attemtpts to sober up do not sound very realistic... to say the least...

Add to that the fact that the author, who is obviously American and must have 'copied' her English from both an old dictionary and a few episodes of Shameless, makes her English character speak a horribly unlikely language...

and you have a really bad book!

I am an optimist and always think that a book can get better so I struggled to finish this one. But I must revise my habits as this did not really improve...and I do not have high standards! But this book was so bad I decided to write a review, thing that I always leave to others!

Maybe if she had a better editor she would have worked more on this draft. I even bet that the next books could be substantially better. But I just could not get over how bad this one is and I prefer to help people save their money.
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on 20 July 2009
I agree with the previous reviewer. This book was a good start to a new UF series, I was really looking forward to it as it was based in London but...as a Londoner myself, I don't speak like the characters in this book and I don't know anyone who does. The dialect is bad. In the acknowledgements it says 'Karen Mahoney showed me London and conspired to make me sound English' well, Karen Mahoney cannot be from the UK. I have not heard words like sod, sodding, gits and ruddy used for years. I'm surprised 'naff off' didn't make an appearance. Infact the only person I know who has used those words is Ron Weasley from Harry Potter. I might seem picky but there is so much of it I couldn't get past the irritation.

It's a shame, the premise is good and although Jack isn't very likable in the beginning I appreciated that this wasn't the usual UF written by female authors featuring a gorgeous, buff hero with loaded sexual tension between the protags (nothing wrong in this, I'm a big fan of Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs) It was good to read something a little different. Jack is a heroin addict, not pretty at all, he's weedy, a bit of a pig but very funny.

Would I read the second one? hmm...not unless the dialect has been improved I'm afraid.
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on 29 September 2013
I had been following Caitlin Kittredge on Twitter for a while and what she had to say or rather the way she said it had me intrigued and made me want to read some of her books. So I bought Street Magic. The book left me with mixed feelings. I found the story gripping and read it with passion but at the same time the main character, Pete, and her often gratuitous violence didn't convince me that she really was a detective inspector. It may just be my imagination but I always saw her as somewhat younger and aspects of her behavior added credence to that impression. The unruly and unconventional nature of Pete didn't help make her fit in an institution like the police. In addition, the milieu of the police was so sketchily evoked that it didn't convince me she was really a police inspector. Talking of sketchiness, the story revolved so tightly around Pete and her mage friend Jake that it was dense and claustrophobic which often suited the storyline well. Beyond those limited boundaries the world surrounding the story dissolved rapidly into smokey vagueness. The unfolding of the almost incestuous relationship between the detective and the mage was well handled, if a little predictable. One of the most striking things about Kittredge's writing was the way she used language to create an atmosphere, using words to build images in surprising but generally very efficient ways.

Review first published on Secret-Paths: http://about-books.secret-paths.com/?p=60
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on 8 August 2013
Street Magic got me hooked on Ms. Kittredge's stuff; I'd buy her shopping list if she ever had the mind to sell them. Her writing always throws me into Jack and Pete's world, and her world-building of Black London is superb. The story is well-structured and the plot develops at a great pace. As a Brit myself, I never really had much problem with the American author's use of British slang. I never found, while reading, that it drew me out of the story or distracted me. I feel the characters are brave and gritty, but not always perfect--which is awesome. Pete is not a Mary-Sue, and Jack is not a Gary-Stu--far from it. They make mistakes, they are dumb and overreact, and make bad decisions. They are very human, despite the magical aspects of their lives, which is why the Black London novels are one of my favourite urban fantasy series right next to Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series. :)
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on 1 July 2010
I loved this book maybe I'm bias being a born and bred Londoner but I really enjoyed this series so far and am waiting very unpatiently for the 3rd book in the series to come out. Pete is intelligent, fiesty and charged. The author Caitlin captured the darker side of London very well for someone who lives on another continent. I doubt someone who enjoys tales of love and happiness would find this book appealing as it definitely has a dark and tainted feel to it.
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on 13 January 2010
The guts of this book are beautiful. The characters are broadly human with faults and physical limitations. The world is well realised and carefully thought out. Unlike authors like Laurell K Hamilton, Caitlin Kittredge doesn't believe in giving you a character's entire history out of the tin and then hammering it; the people evolve and new revelations give insight into their tastes and choices. I am still waiting to learn why Pete drives a Mini - something Hamilton and a dozen other authors would have told me in the first descriptive paragraph.

The major fault in this series is that the author is obviously an American writing about Britain. She makes valiant, even loving, attempts to ground her characters in British culture, but without being British that is surprisingly difficult. There are flaws in syntax and in cultural references that niggled at me horrendously. Unfortunately, this also affects the characters because their 'voices' often slip.

Nevertheless, the story does overcome these niggles and the characters, although fairly simple, develop a certain depth. This is helped because, as pointed out above, the author is not afraid to leave things unsaid and let the shadows do the work.
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