Friday, 1 April 2011

Review | A Madness of Angels - Kate Griffin

A list of the most intriguing fantasies I've read would have to include Kate Griffin's A Madness of Angels by default. Why? I could name a number of reasons, but the first would have to be how the mysteries and the fast-paced narrative gripped me from the first chapter. Our protagonist, Matthew Swift, wakes up in a London not entirely his own: a London many years since he last lived. He's returned: but with differently coloured eyes - now, a bright electric blue. And he's speaking in plurals... I won't give away the mystery, but suffice to say that both the mysteries and their answers defy fantasy's conventions, and the system of urban magic is as fresh and original as it is fascinating. A Madness of Angels takes a common idea in fantasy - the life is magic - and finds its consequences and its own system. As people moved to the cities, so did the magic: and the life that people waste and casually spend goes into this new, urban magic, creating entities and urban gods like the blue electric angels that sing in the telephones, the Beggar King, and the Last Train. It's a fantastic system, but to elaborate would be to spoil the joy of discovery, and I wouldn't care to ruin this for anyone.

The main plot follows Matthew's attempts to bring down the organization that has been dominating London's magical circles, simply discover what has even -happened-, and why a shadow is following him. Is his former mentor in the magic of the urban sorcerers, Robert Bakker, to blame? Although the middle slumps a little - having pretty much finished with the discovery plot, and not yet begun with the finale - it's still a fast-paced read,m and aside from this tiny central section, it's not at all an 'excuse plot' (a flimsy justification to show off worldbuilding).

The characterisation isn't shabby, either. Matthew Swift himself is a return to a likable, sympathetic - and competent - protagonist, and amongst all of the gritty antiheroes nowadays, it's nice to see someone, who can be considered this way. Dialogue's also fun and witty, and Griffin never misses a chance for some wry humour.

On the whole, this is one of the best urban fantasies I've read in a while, and you'll get even more out of the references if you're British. It features a fun hero, rather intriguing mysteries, and a setting and matching magic system to die for. Overall? Aside from the plotting of about 50 pages in the middle (where a certain section gets a little repetitive), I can't recommend it enough.


Recommended for anyone, but especially fans of urban fantasies like the Dresden Files.

A Madness of Angels can be found on Amazon here:  A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift


  1. Hey you, just stopping by on the follow. Terrific blog.
    Have a terrific weekend reading !!!
    See ya!
    Readaholics Anonymous

  2. I see my pal, Dana got here before me! Busy weekend has kept me from hopping much. This is beautiful. Love the header. Come by:Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust
    twitter: @fangswandsfairy

  3. Welcome to the blog! I'm following you all back. :)

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