The Neon Court by Kate Griffin
|The Neon Court by Kate Griffin|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A moody and adventurous dark fantasy novel. If some of the 'comedy' dialogue had been cropped we might be talking masterpiece.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: February 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Matthew Swift, the Midnight Mayor ostensibly in charge of things magical about and within London, is in trouble. He wakes from a summons in a burning tower block, with an associate he'd rather not be with. In their escape a person dies. Only this death is set to cause out-and-out war between two legendary magical clans, the Neon Court and the Tribe. How can Swift be diplomatic enough for both sides? How can he resolve the matter without some form of guilt? And how can he find the time, when something has peppered London with cryptic 'Bad Wolf'-style graffiti, word is out the person he woke with is a fabled Chosen One everyone will slaughter for, Swift is beset with everyone he wants to meet being blinded by his enemies, and something has forced London into perpetual night?
At the third time of asking, Griffin once again offers us an urban fantasy par excellence. You might not know London as she does, but you end up with this city hitting every sense you own. You feel every puddle you run through, sense alarm at every graffito, and flinch from every shadow. And while it's patently obvious Swift is wrong on who he thinks is the Chosen One, you do fall easily under the spell of a narrator both very powerful and very much under threat.
The style switches as swiftly and effortlessly as anything from gritty, sincere magical episodes, to poetic beats magical in their own way, just as the narration turns mid-phrase from Swift singular to Swift plural. (There's a back story, and two previous books - A Madness of Angels and The Midnight Mayor to explain that, and I strongly urge you to use them, even if this book is 99% self-contained.)
The pages turn in this most readable adventure of their own volition, not because the pace is non-stop relentless, but because Griffin can easily change approach, slow things down, alter her paragraph length, and so on, to give us a very literary fantasy. But that adjective should never let you lose sight of this being a great read. The mood of the rainy, littered, night-time London is the best character one could wish for. It's a London where allegiances and friendships are all grudgingly formed, where all the booze is six cans for four quid, and where the bizarrest of urban gods can be appeased by cold kebabs.
The book isn't flawless - it gets more and more noticeable there are what I can only call micro-repetitions in the writing (the same line about the price of cheap booze turns up almost word for word twice, among several instances). And Swift's apprentice, despite being a fun character, allowing us some easier ways into the arcane worlds here - among other useful devices - has too much dialogue with her master that has a sense of humour I can only describe as debatable.
Beyond that, however, this is a sterling read, and if this is the last gasp of a trilogy it goes down as a superlative way to finish what instantly became one of our favourite series here at Bookbag Towers. If there's more, we're going to lick our lips more ravenously than the kebab-eating gods, for such sustained richness, mood, and mysterious peril (or perilous mystery) is not nearly as common as it should be.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
We also recommend The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar for a very different urban fantasy - one with much more lightness to it, if also some more debatable comedy.
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