Book Review: The Midnight Mayor, by Kate Griffin
The sequel to A Madness of Angels, The Midnight Mayor continues the story of Matthew Swift, recently violently deceased and resurrected urban sorcerer, and the Blue Electric Angels, the gods of the telephone wire who have taken up residence in his body. When we left them, they had just destroyed the organisation known as the Tower, a group of evil (and misguided, or simply coerced) sorcerers who were responsible for his death. A Madness of Angels also introduced Griffin’s idea of ‘urban magic’: essentially, life is magic, and magic is life. In this modern age, magic is no longer drawn from the wind, or the moon, but from neon lights, the smell of kebabs. The best defence spell is to invoke the rules printed on the back of an Oyster Card, and the monsters are not faeries or demons, but monsters formed from discarded litter, or the vast quantities of grease and fat poured down the drain by late-night takeaways.
As you may gather, the primary attraction of the series is the sheer imagination behind it. There are some wonderful ideas here, and if urban magic as practiced by our hero primarily translates to making things go boom on an epic scale…well, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there? Actually, that’s less of an issue in this book. Admittedly, that’s because the villain of the piece appears to be impervious to – well, everything – but having established the character of Swift, and the background to the story in the previous book, Griffin is now free to evolve the magical world even further.
It has to be said, Swift is not the most intricately drawn character. We don’t really learn much about him, despite the first person narrative. Despite being the nominal lead character, (it is perhaps stretching it a touch to call him the hero), he is so entwined with the angels that live in his blood that it is difficult to work out where he ends and they begin…if there is such a point. As he/they say, “I am we, and we are me.” There are lengthy segments filled with strange, intense passages that are clearly more to do with the angels than Swift, only for a sudden flash of humour, or hallucination of his dead friends and enemies to put him back in the hotseat. It’s a little disconcerting – but then, I rather suspect that’s the point. Whether it is or not, a suitably mysterious and disturbing atmosphere is created, so it perhaps doesn’t matter.
The plot is engaging – concerning the imminent destruction of London – and takes in various brilliantly drawn locales; London feels more alive than some of the characters, at times, especially in a wonderfully spooky sequence about halfway through the story. It rattles along at a fair pace, and I found myself reading straight through from beginning to end, and the conclusion leaves Swift – and Griffin – in an intriguing situation for any sequels.
The Midnight Mayor may not convert you, if you are not a fantasy devotee, but let yourself get drawn in, and you’ll be hooked.