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on 25 October 2012
This is set in the same world - and the same backdrop - as Griffin's highly successful Midnight Mayor series, featuring Matthew Swift as her conflicted and very powerful protagonist and is definitely one for the adults. Sammy the Elbow, the world's second best shaman, sprinkles his dialogue with language almost as foul as his smell...

This book is written in multiple viewpoint, with no first person narrative, so we get a ringside seat to witness the struggles of Rhys, a druid forced to shelter from Nature due to his chronic hay fever; Gretel the troll, who wants to cook; Sally the banshee, who writes everything down on a whiteboard so that her magically-enhanced voice doesn't drive men mad; Kevin, the vampire who has major issues with blood - along with any other fluids that may pose a risk of infection... Even Matthew Swift, the Midnight Mayor isn't particularly effective - his specialty being to blow things up in a messy destructive manner, whereas this job requires finesse. I've enjoyed all the Midnight Mayor books and come to admire Griffin's writing talent - however my misgiving was that with such a very powerful main character, the forces ranged against him also had to be equally huge, or there was no real plot. But, the motley crew surrounding Sharon certainly don't fall into that category.
I expected an action-packed plot wound full of tension and vivid descriptions of some of the less wholesome parts of London, which I certainly got - but what was a delightful surprise were the laugh-aloud moments. And this book is full of them. Griffin's humour is pitch-perfect and a wonderful counterpoint to the full-on action and pathos. A book that leaves me with a lump in my throat while making me laugh always has a special place in my heart - it doesn't happen all that often. Matt Haig's 'The Radleys' was the last time I read one of these rare novels...

And if Griffin's descriptions leap off the page, then her dialogue is a joy - pin-sharp, funny and perceptive. With such a strong cast of interesting characters, Sharon's slightly desperate flailings to discover just exactly what she should be doing could have been completely eclipsed by the likes of Rhys and Kevin. Yet Griffin avoids that pitfall with the same deftness that she handles the issue of how to neutralise a magically potent protagonist such as Matthew Swift.

Her simmering anger at social injustice that produced the King of Rats, the tribe and the Bag Lady is still apparent in Griffin's character, Greydawn. As for the ending, it was beautifully handled - both satisfying and poignant. All in all, while Griffin's books have always been excellent, Stray Souls is outstanding and the best urban fantasy book I've read this year.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 July 2014
Sharon Li is a Shaman - she just doesn't know it yet. She begins a group, Magicals Anonymous, for all those people who are a little bit out of the ordinary and finds herself trying to save the city.
This book was a little bit slow to begin with while the reader was getting to know the characters and the London in which they live. However as the book progressed I found myself getting more and more involved and was really quite sad when I finished it! The underlying plot is fairly basic - magical people/creatures need to save the city from a bad magical creature, in this case a wendigo. Yes, I had to google it too! (other search engines are available!). By keeping the basic plot quite simple the reader was able to enjoy the characters that were created without frantically trying to keep track of the twists and turns. I wonder if the next in the series will have a slightly more complex plot as we have now got to know the characters? I look forward to finding out.
The characters in this book are simply wonderful - Sammy the Goblin who also happens to be the second greatest Shaman in the world, the Midnight Mayor, Sally the art loving Banshee, Gretel the cookery loving troll, Rhys the allergic druid, Kevin the OCD vampire........a fantastic collection of characters from what can only be described as a most unusual imagination!
There is also a lot of humour in this book - well the character list gives that away for starters. I found myself chuckling out loud and received some strange looks from my family (not an altogether unusual event!).
This book was very individual but there are slight similarities with the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher, the odd hint of Terry Pratchett's work and a dash of the Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovich. If you liked any of those books then this series is definitely worth a try. In fact, whether you have read any of those books or not why not give this a try?
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on 8 November 2012
This was an enjoyable read. The magical London world of Matthew Swift is greatly expanded with this book and we get a new lead character, Sharon Li an untrained shaman who is about to find that she and her magical self-help group may be the only thing standing between the city soul being destroyed. Matthew Swift does appear in this book but he is only a secondary character in a cast of magical eccentrics. Time-wise this book takes place after the events in The Minority Council: A Matthew Swift novel (Matthew Swift Novels) A second book in the magicals anonymous series is listed The Glass God (Magicals Anonymous) but I do have to wonder after having read this if we'll get any more pure Matthew Swift books.

I prefer a strong central character to my novels which is one of the reasons the early Matthew Swift books appealed to me so much. I loved some of the new characters in Stray Souls but they did dilute the experience of a single narrator a bit. Having said that though I still very much looking forward to book 2 in the series.
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on 3 April 2013
Not a bad book, Kate Griffin's style is always enjoyable, and living and working in London as I do it's enjoyable knowing the locations used in the novel. That said I generally prefer the darker tone in the Midnight Mayor series, it definitely feels that a conscious decision was made to make this almost a kids version of the earlier books. All the characters have an 'amusing' twist, a banshee into modern art, a troll who enjoys fine dining, a hyperchondriac vampire, a Druid with allergies etc. sure it's good for the characters to have flaws but with them being that overt it was kind of like reading an episode of Scooby Doo. I half expected the villain to be unmasked while uttering the immortal phrase "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you pesky kids".

I get that authors need to change direction from time to time to keep things interesting for themselves, but in a world where London is swarming with magic imbued figures, surely other cities, or countries have the same so why can't we see them, does the countryside also have magic? If so what happens when the city expands? Basically I feel this was an okay novel but there are far better ways Griffin could have expanded the Midnight Mayor world.
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Kate Griffin has always brought something a little different to the Urban Fantasy world and when its set in London, it's something that is not only addictive but also one that gives you an adventure, yet rather than spending time with heavily powered heroes, we get something very unusual with a Shaman as a lead character. It's definitely quirky and with the Mayor (Matthew Swift) appearing within it's a book that was a lot of fun to read.

Finally throw into the mix great prose, some cracking dialogue and when added to a wonderful arc that keeps giving throughout as well as building upon the success of those that have gone before makes a cracking addition to the authors bow.
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on 8 December 2012
I enjoyed this a lot. The lovely pop culture references, the pervasion of modernity into magic. However, the one thing that let it down was the characterisation of Sharon.She' s too similar to Penny, Matthew's apprentice. She even speaks like her.
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VINE VOICEon 26 October 2013
I hadn't read any of the Midnight Mayor books before reading Stray Souls, but this didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. I suspect that, if I go on to read the original series, a little more depth of meaning to some of the scenes in this book will be added but I don't think the lack of familiarity with this authors world made a big difference in understand what was going on as the book did seem to stand alone rather well. (Although I was reminded of Simon R Green's Nightside a few times, although Kate Griffin's shadow London is a slightly cuddlier, friendly place than the Nightside.)

The book follows Sharon Li, a beginner Shaman, who sets up a self-help group for confused and conflicted magical beings. She, and eventually her support group Magicals Anonymous, get dragged into a saving the city from some rather evil property developers backed by bankers.

I enjoyed the story and the way the plot rattled along well.

The author doesn't choose a single perspective to write from but each (sometimes very short) chapter reflects the perspective of a different character. This is an interesting approach which works well in a book with quite a large number of characters - you get a really clear sense of who they area and what motivates them. The characters are essentially a succession of slightly comedic archetypes: the vampire with massive hygiene issues and a problem with blood and a very grumpy, smelly goblin and a terribly polite art-loving banshee but they are well-written enough to be sympathetic and engaging. There are some points when things start getting quite silly, but just stay on the side of being fun and entertaining.

I liked Sharon the lead character and her positivity that you can fix things by being a better person and talking about stuff, although the self-help theme could get quite irritating in future... Her outlook and personality does change a fair bit through the book, reflecting her going from not realising she's a shaman to becoming a good one.

The book is dialogue-heavy and that dialogue reflects the range of style of speaking of the characters. Again many have an engaging and interesting voice which is unique to them. There was quite a bit of swearing, which partly reflected one specific character's manner, but I did find that grated a little.

I liked the reveal of the motivation of the villain of the pieces, which will probably be the thought that stays with me longest after reading the book (especially in the way it puts the constant random questions he asks earlier on in the book in a rather sad context.)

All in all a fun read and I'm pretty sure I'll be reading then next one and the original series.
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on 21 July 2013
Stray Souls is the first book in a new series from Griffin, set in the same world as her Swift novels. Having never read any of Griffin's work before I've come into this blind and worried that might be a problem. It really wasn't! Despite the apparent familiarity between series, this works as a complete stand alone, giving everything you'd need as a first time reader and more.

In this book we meet Sharon Li whose life seems to be in a little bit of disarray. She's barely holding onto her job as a pretty bad barista, paying her bills in a shared flat and maintaining a social life. And just when she thought it couldn't get more chaotic, Sharon becomes at one with the city, that is to say, she discovers she's a Shaman. Having been able to walk through walls from a young age this doesn't come as quite the big shock you'd expect, she takes it on with a rather unique nonchalance that we soon learn to be an inherent part of her personality.

I like Sharon. She was funny, different in both a good and strange way, and at times so incredibly infuriating I wanted to shout at her. So shoot me, I like a strong character with a lot of depth, good and bad! As the plot is unveiled predominantly from Sharon's point of view, if you don't warm to her quirky ways and unique outlook you may struggle to get into this book. However, if you embrace her personality, get over the constant use of colloquial words such as `um', `so yeah', `uh' etc and just go with it you'll see how brilliantly this character works. So yeah, keep an open mind!

In fact all the characters have an element of quirkiness. Griffin has developed quite an array of personality traits, fleshing out her world thoroughly with fun, interesting, and completely individual characters. For me this added humour to Griffin's writing, with Kevin the germ-phobic Vampire with Seah's syndrome, Sally the modern art enthusiast Banshee, Gretel the gourmet food loving Troll, Rhys the Druid complete with hyper sensitive allergies, and Sammy the Shaman Goblin with some serious height/social problems! These unlikely characters all come together when Sharon starts a self help group originally named `Weird Shit Keeps Happening to Me and I Don't Know Why But Figure I Need Help' before being re-named to a more simpler `Magicals Anonymous'.

As for the story line, I was drawn in by the blurb alone and it only got better from there. I love the idea that every part of our reality has a soul and holds memories as such. So when these souls start to go missing, it's down to Sharon and her newly found friends at Magicals Anonymous to save the City. Which sounds kind of simple - ish, except when you throw in a missing Goddess and her very unhappy (murdering) Dog, a Wendigo villain and four ninja builders that claim to be the greatest killers the world has ever known.

Griffin's style of writing is different, I'm still trying to work out my take on it! The story moves at a fast pace and her prose is easy to read, adding to the action. However, her chapters are very short, which had good and bad connotations for me. At times, it made the reading very staccato. It was for this reason that I struggled to get into the book during the first twenty or so chapters. On the other hand, as the plot progressed, these short chapters only increased the pacing and excitement. I kept thinking `oh I'll just read one more' which led to at least 3 or four more chapters before I could pry myself away. The short chapters allowed for breaks away from the plot where we read short autobiographical excerpts from the main characters. Not only did this help with the pacing of the book but it also allowed Griffin to increase the details without info dumping during the main text.

The ending only confirmed my opinion of the book. Once again I was taken by surprise when Griffin threw a rather sobering, moral final chapter where we realise things aren't always as they seem.

I'm really excited to start reading the sequel `The Glass God' now (Review to follow shortly)!
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VINE VOICEon 15 May 2013
It took me a while to get round to reading this, for which I can only apologise. I'm a huge fan of the Midnight Mayor series of books (start here: A Madness of Angels (Matthew Swift Novels)), and really wasn't happy to hear there wasn't a new one coming.

So I gave Stray Souls a chance. The first thing I noticed here, was the book has chapters. It's literally full of the things. Regular readers of my reviews (Hi again Mum) will know that the only thing I didn't like about the Midnight Mayor series was the lack of these fellas. So now we have some, and it's great and everything, but I'm not sure we really needed them :P

Seriously though, congratulations on the whole chapters thing.

The style of writing here is of course very similar to the Midnight Mayor series (can I just refer to them as the MM series now?), although there is a lot more humour in this one (or at least there seemed to be). The characters are great, even the evil Mr Ruislip has his moments of likeableness, and as such I found it really hard to put this down.

I'm looking forward now to getting the next in this series, although I am still keeping my fingers crossed for another in the MM series too. If you are a fan of the MM series - and if you've read them, then obviously you are - you'll enjoy this. If you've not read the MM series, then well you don't really need to in order to enjoy this, but I would recommend you do anyway.

Overall, another great book from Kate Griffin - keep them coming.
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on 2 April 2013
Having developed a great respect for Kate Griffin's work through the Midnight Mayor series did not prepare me for how much I really enjoyed this book. The characters are simply fascinating , and watching them develop through the book is a joy. The use of Matthew Swift was cleverly handled, the character not being overused, as this could have distracted from the lighter feel to this book (notwithstanding the nature of the villain of the piece). There were times when comparisons with Pratchett could easily have been made- some of the one liners are simply superb. Not wishing to incur the wrath of Pratchett fans, however, Griffin's book does hold together to the very end, which has not always been the case with Pratchett. There is little not to enjoy and this book is highly recommended to anyone with a taste for the unusual and a sense of fun. Looking forward already to the next book!
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