Stray Souls by Kate Griffin

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Stray Souls by Kate Griffin

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The latest from the Queen of Urban Fantasy is as dark, creepy, action-packed and exciting as any of her Matthew Swift novels but with a more pronounced sense of humour. 6 stars out of 5 but not to be read with a full bladder; you have been warned.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 446 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356500645

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Sharon Li has a normal job in a London coffee shop but doesn't feel normal. She's beginning to realise she's a shaman, especially when she is so at one with the city, she vanishes. In order to meet others who'll understand, she starts Magicals Anonymous, a self-help group for the mystically confused coming to terms with their gifts. The meetings come with various beverages, biscuits, a Facebook page and a very good turnout. However all is not herbal tea and crunchy-creams as someone or something seems to be stealing the spirits that make London's soul and another something walks the streets tearing people limb from limb. The city is dying and gradually Sharon realises that Magicals Anonymous are more than just a social group. As odd as it sounds to look at them, the Midnight Mayor wants them to save the capital.

Her mother knows the author as Catherine Webb, which is also the name under which she's been writing YA fiction since she was 14. However, more recently, using the pen name Kate Griffin, she's become just as well known for adult urban fantasy and creating Matthew Swift. 'So', I hear you ask, 'is Sharon Li just Matthew Swift in an orange top and purple boots?' 'No', I respond vehemently, 'most definitely not!'

Their world may be the same; in fact Matthew (the 127th Midnight Mayor, protecting the interests and well-being of supernatural London, as he now is) makes a substantial appearance. However he seems a little different through Sharon's eyes than he had previously through ours and there are other glaring differences.

The obvious one is that Sharon isn't dead. (That's not a spoiler but something that we Matthew followers have always known.) Also, whereas Matthew works mainly alone whilst a changing posse of friends, acquaintances and indefinables lurk around the edge of his adventures, Sharon has a tribe; Stray Souls is a wonderfully written ensemble piece. Magicals Anon is a wonderful example of the seemingly shambolic (the individuals, not the writing) combining to make a special whole. Each person (a noun used loosely) is memorable from Kevin the 'O' negative vampire, to Rhys the urban (on account of his hayfever) druid, Mr Roding the necromancer with skincare problems or Gretel the gourmet troll to name but some. I love them all. Exuding a bewildered semi-confidence, Sharon tries to keep order but it's like herding cats.

As in her previous novels, Kate Griffin weaves a world of the dark supernatural and evil that dares to tear at the soul of London whilst basing it on irrefutable logic. Of course Sally the banshee would write everything on a portable whiteboard – her voice makes men scream and writhe. And, more importantly why wouldn't the biological rules regarding antibodies in blood and their rejection apply to vampires too?

You will be turning pages in time to your increasing pulse rate (especially towards the end; the last hundred pages are one 'don't miss a second, not even if the cat needs to go out' climax) but you will also be chortling out loud (for days afterwards if you're like me). (I still remember Dog's chapter word for word and snorty laugh at the memory.) However this is definitely an adult book: there are scenes of dismemberment and disembodied blood occasionally. Also there is much swearing which is very effective in context, but parents may not want to hear it replicated by their offspring. Sharon accounts for around half the profanity and most of the remainder comes from the deliciously narky Samuel the Elbow, goblin, second best shaman ever to walk the Earth and f***ing polite. (Think entire cast of Grumpy Old Men in one, very short body.)

Like a 4-year-old after a great birthday party, I could go on reciting 'bestest bits' till you start snoring so it may be easier (and definitely more rewarding) for you to just get a copy for yourself. Meanwhile, Kate thank you for everything (apart from the coffee pebble-dashing on my shirt) and Orbit, thank you for sending us a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this, perhaps you'd like to learn more about the origins of Matthew Swift in A Madness of Angels. If you're already a fan, then we recommend a new name in urban fantasy: Benedict Jacka.

Buy Stray Souls by Kate Griffin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stray Souls by Kate Griffin at

Buy Stray Souls by Kate Griffin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stray Souls by Kate Griffin at


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