Monday, 29 October 2012
BOOK REVIEW: STRAY SOULS by KATE GRIFFIN
As the saying goes, you can have it fast or you can have it good. With Kate Griffin you get it fast and you get it good as she effortlessly knocks out a couple of novels a year.
In this book, set in the same London as the Night Mayor (who makes several appearances), Griffin has stuck has struck gold with a great idea. Sharon Li who, for some reason, is afflicted with magical problems, sets up a support group called Magicals Anonymous for people (and, as she discovers, people who aren't people) with problems caused by magic. To her surprise, it's quite successful. Also to her surprise she learns that she's a shaman and the only one (with a little help from her new friends) who can deal with a magical danger that even the Night Mayor can't handle.
And that's pretty much all I'm going to tell you about the plot as I wouldn't want to spoil any of the many pleasures and surprises this book contains. I will tell you that this book contains Griffin's considerable and idiosyncratic gift for description, particularly of London. Being cynical I considered that a. she made it all up, or b. spent hours on Google at street level, or c. walked the streets of London more than anyone who wasn't homeless. After checking her blog it turns out that it's c.
But back to the point, I just want to make it clear that Griffin is a spectacularly good writer. Not a great one yet but give her five minutes and she will be. She sold her first novel at age 14, under her real name of Catherine Webb she was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in two successive years aged 19 and 20. Now she's reached the ripe old age of 26, I shudder to think how good she'll be in about another ten years. Ten years after that she'll probably be World President, if she can be bothered.
I would just like to point out that the page length of this book is deceptive and that you'll read it fair more quickly than you expected (even allowing for the fact that you'll find it difficult to put down). There are a total of 111 chapters in 438 pages giving an average chapter length of fractionally under 4 pages so there is lots of white space. One chapter just consists of 7 words (8 including the title) and all the same word (excluding the title) which I would quote except for that it might be considered unfair usage to print an entire chapter even for review purposes.
The book would also make the basis for a good TV series. A two-parter, based on the book, to introduce the characters coming together, then several more focusing on one or two of the group. That's on British TV. If the Americans buy it it'll probably be called Magicals Anonymous: Missions Very Impossible.
Anyway, get in on the ground floor so you can boast you were reading Kate Griffin before she took over the world. Plus you'll also get to read a terrific slice of British Urban Fantasy.