Wednesday, August 10, 2016

STRAY SOULS: A REVIEW

Stray Souls (Magicals Anonymous #1)
Written by: Kate Griffin
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Language: English
October 2012
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Series

'Don’t look back. It wants you to look back.’

London’s soul has gone missing. Lost? Kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows – but when Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she is immediately called upon to use her newfound powers of oneness with the City to rescue it from a slow but inevitable demise.

The problem is, while everyone expects Sharon to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start.

But with London’s soul missing and the Gate open, there are creatures loose that won’t wait for her to catch up before they go hunting.

Stray Souls is the first novel in the Magicals Anonymous series, set in the same fantastical London as the Matthew Swift novels.


+++++++++++++

Sometimes there are books you just love to read for the sake of reading. The prose is sublime and flows through your mind like some lyrical dream. The descriptions put you in this magical world that you never want to leave. The Matthew Swift novels were like that for me. I could read for endless hours the descriptions of London and its various inhabitants. They felt so magical and alive. Obviously I really liked them.

Strangely, it took me a while to pick up Stray Souls which is the first book in the Magical Anonymous series. Though it is set in the same universe as our dear Midnight mayor, it is quite different. Even if Matthew Swift makes an appearance or two.

Sharon Li, failing barista and mantra chanting aficionado, has discovered that she is an urban shaman, something she doesn’t quite understand. Becoming one with the city or walking through walls can be a bit confusing so she sets up a Facebook Group (Weird Shit Keeps Happening and I Don’t Know Why but I Figure I Need Help’ which eventually becomes the local self-group of Magicals Anonymous. It includes other magicals such as misunderstood necromancers, allergy suffering druids, a hypochondriac vampire named Kevin, Sally the socially awkward banshee, Gretel the gourmet food loving troll, and a cleaning lady who isn’t quite sure why she is there at all.

Before Sharon can catch her breath the soul of London, Greydawn the Lady of 4am, has gone missing. With her absence the monsters are coming out of hiding which is not good for anyone. And for some reason everyone expects Sharon to fix things. It will be up to her, a toothpaste addicted goblin mentor, and her new group to save London.

Things I liked: Stray Souls is infinitely lighter than the Matthew Swift novels. Kind of like Guardians of the Galaxy compared to the rest of the MCU. It is kind of Terry Pratchett does Matthew Swift. While it may have taken a little bit to get used to, I liked it. I think the mini chapters work well and some of the chapter titles were hilarious. I will say that it takes a little to get going, but once it does it flowed nicely and at a decent pace.

I love the idea that places and buildings have souls. When the soul of something disappears, the building or place dies. You know the ones I am talking about: the storefront that is something new every time you walk by, the house that keeps going up on the market despite the neighborhood, or the park that just feels empty. I love that.

Sharon is a bit of a self-help hippie and at first I did not like her at all…except for maybe her blue hair. She does yoga, practices deep breathing, is very pro-active, and constantly utters self-help mantras. But she grew on me. At first she was a bit of a pushover, everyone telling her what to do and then she decided that was enough of that. When she finally grows a backbone and starts telling people that they need to give her more than vague clues, it was great. Sharon is not a damsel in distress. She can save herself quite well, thank you.

Beyond Sharon, I love the other members of Magicals Anonymous. This is a group who won’t give up or give in. They are weird. They are quirky. They are socially awkward. But they save the day anyway. I like a group like that. I like the magical misfits. I like misfits in general I suppose. Even Mr. Ruislip gained my sympathy just a wee bit. Poor wendigo.

Things I didn’t like so much: Matthew Swift was a bit annoying. I know he is a bit too powerful to be the main focus of books anymore, but now it feels like he has done a complete 180. He’s vague and kind of an incompetent jerk. Okay there might be bureaucratic tape tying all of his limbs together, but the old Matthew Swift wouldn’t care. He’s just not the Swift I fell in love with and that was disappointing. I understand that this ‘job’ requires some finesse and the Electric Angels are not really the best at that I suppose.

This was an odd change of pace and tone for me, one that I wasn’t quite expecting so it took some getting used to. But in the end I did enjoy it, just not as much as the Matthew Swift series.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. If you like Kate Griffin and the London she has created.

Part of: Series
Stray Souls: Book One
The Glass God: Book Two

Also Recommended: Please please read the Matthew Swift novels also by Kate Griffin beginning with A Madness of Angels. Also alternative Londons you might like include Tales from the Nightside by Simon R Green, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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