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The Glass God by Kate Griffin
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Shaman and community support officer to the supernaturally inclined Sharon Li has her hands full enough running London’s first magical support group, Magicals Anonymous, when the Midnight Mayor unhelpfully disappears and leaves her in charge of figuring out why. The clues he leaves behind are challengingly cryptic, too: An umbrella with a missing point and a dose of mystical whammy that only a shaman like Sharon can sense, and a map marking the locations of dozens of recent disappearances connected only by what they leave behind -- their shoes. Sharon has the assistance of both the Aldermen and her ragtag group of druids, necromancers, banshees, vampires, and gourmet trolls to call upon in solving the intertwined mysteries, but she’s slamming up against quite the deadline -- not only is Matthew Swift running out of time to be rescued, but the disappeared belong to Old Man Bone, and if he doesn’t get what he’s owed, the plague pits of London will open and black death will once more roll through the streets.

I really want to like these books more than I do, because the Matthew Swift series that preceded them was awesome, and Griffin captures her love and knowledge of London on the page so beautifully. Unfortunately, I have a difficult time getting past the awfully flat characterisation. None of our protagonists have grown at all since the first Magicals Anonymous book, Stray Souls -- if anything, they’ve doubled down on the annoyingness and the shallowness. Sharon continues to be a vapid, self-absorbed bundle of self-help cliches and management strategies that read like they were pruned from spambots on Twitter, and Rhys continues to have exactly one personality trait, that of ‘kicked puppy’. The other members of Magicals Anonymous barely exist as more than an excuse for punchlines, ones which were made plenty of times in the first book and weren’t that funny to begin with.

This time around, we can add unforgivably stupid to Sharon’s list of oh so endearing qualities, though. She’s a shaman, right, seer of the truth that lies beneath the everyday? Or so several secondary characters will keep on (and on and on) telling us. You would have thought, then, she might possess enough insight to notice things like a highly visible identical detail in every one of several crime scenes she and Rhys visit and photograph without having to have it belatedly pointed out to her by an exposition fairy banshee. Perhaps that it might also have occurred to her that if the Aldermen have the resources to produce military-grade weapons on demand, they might be useful people to ask to put a tail on the extremely suspiciously-acting person they already know is at least peripherally connected to one of their cases, or to trace the numbers on a dead woman’s cell phone. These tasks all seem to be beyond her, though.

The main story thread involving the disappearances and Old Man Bone is genuinely quite compelling, except for the fact that if it had been pursued by characters acting intelligently, it would have taken about half the time to solve. It was what kept me turning the pages quite avidly despite the level to which Sharon was getting on my nerves, though, and I imagine I’d have enjoyed it a lot if it had been pursued by Matthew or Penny or anyone who felt like a real, intellectually engaged person. The thing is that Matthew’s powers have reached the point where the story would need a lot more meat on the bones to actually keep him from bulldozing his way to the denouement so fast, which is why I initially looked forward to the change in protagonist in moving from the Swift novels to the Magicals Anonymous ones, but that was when I imagined that his successor would be as finely characterised as he had been. At this point, I’d love to abandon Sharon and crew entirely and go back to his story, although if Stray Souls was anything to judge by, Griffin has lost a feel for his voice and can’t really write him in-character anymore.

That makes it something of a saving grace, I guess, that in The Glass God he’s a driving force behind the story but not much of an actual presence in it. This was one of the aspects of the novel I did think was well-handled: Swift and the blue electric angels as a force that looms over the story and reminds us of its rapidly ticking clock. Because those blue electric angels remain as terrifying when unleashed as they are beautiful.

It sounds like I hated the book. I didn’t, as my rating will reflect. It’s more that I am profoundly disappointed in it because Kate Griffin was at the pinnacle of her field in books like The Midnight Mayor and The Neon Court, and I don’t really know how we got from that to this. I turned the pages fast enough, even chuckled a few times at the less desperate attempts at humour, and if this were a book by a new urban fantasy author, I wouldn’t be recommending it to anyone, but I’d be keeping an eye on their future releases because of the elegant prose, the beautiful take on London, and the seeds of promise in the story. But Griffin is not a debut author, and given the downward trajectory of the last few books, I’m hoping this is where she lays Magicals Anonymous to rest and moves on to something that brings back the spark she lost after The Neon Court.

Review from Bookette.net ( )
  Snumpus | Aug 24, 2017 |
Since this is my by the bed book, it's taking me some time to travel through this book. Matthew Swift, and beings like him, make the book echo A Madness of Angels. But those parts are interspersed by the brilliantly matter-of-fact Sharon Li and her magical misfits. Kevin, the germ phobic vampire, is the first to appear. Yay! ( )
  2wonderY | Feb 9, 2017 |
Very nice. Love the unique view of urban fantasy. ( )
  medined | Jul 21, 2016 |
A little while ago, Sharon Li developed the unexpected and not particularly welcome ability to walk through walls. When self-help books and mantras couldn't offer any more guidance, she started a support group for other people experiencing strange or supernatural phenomena. After defeating spirit-enslaving hedge fund managers in [b:Stray Souls|13526154|Stray Souls (Magicals Anonymous, #1)|Kate Griffin|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1343935864s/13526154.jpg|19086861], Sharon and the group have settled into a comfortable groove. But then Matthew Swift disappears, and Sharon is appointed deputy Midnight Mayor. She only has one clue to Swift's disappearance: an ordinary blue umbrella. But despite her complete lack of experience, eventually she stumbles onto the truth.

Here's the thing. I really want to like Sharon Li, who is good-hearted and good-natured and tries hard. But she, and most of Magicals Anonymous, are SO ANNOYING. They ramble and babble and never get to the point without first spouting a good three paragraphs of tangents. The first few hundred pages of this book were painful to read, because I love the magical London Griffin has created, and all the different types of magical systems and supernatural beings trying to live in an urban environment, but I was very frustrated by the characters. But I have to admire that when it really comes down to it, Sharon and her compatriots can shut up and do some serious damage. The epic battle near the end of the book had me reading furiously fast. (Griffin writes action very well, and magical battles even better.) I thought this section of Sharon's dialog, near the end, demonstrates both what I really like and really dislike about this series.
'You know,' she murmurs, 'if this whole deputy Midnight Mayor thing sticks, and I, like, get lumbered with this job forever, then people are gonna talk about me and Swift, and how we worked all that. And everyone's going to be like, "wow, Matthew Swift, he's such a bad-ass, such a firebrand, look at all the stuff he blows up" and they're gonna go "jeez, Sharon, she's so like 'let's work through our issues' and shit and so kinda 'cuppa tea in the afternoon' and that" and they'll be right, of course, because that's what I'm like and that's what I think people should do.
But the thing is, you gotta remember that all this doesn't make me the good cop.' ( )
1 vote wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
I love the Magicals Anonymous Books. They are fun, fast paced, not to deep, not to silly. They are a perfect book to read on a slow, rainy day when you have lots of time and no where to be.

Sharon Li, Shaman, group leader to Magicals Anonymous - is suddenly the most important person in the city when Matthew Swift disappears, only leaving an umbrella. It is up to Sharon an her self-help group to solve the day - and Sharon does it, using whatever she has available.

Honestly, the plot is fairly standard. What makes these book awesome is just how well written they are, taking a fairly standard trope - and turning it just slightly so that is both familiar, and new at the same time. ( )
1 vote TheDivineOomba | Nov 16, 2013 |
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Epigraph
"They be light, they be life, they be fire.

They be flame of blue, wrath of ice,

Dragon of stone, fury of blood.

They be life in flesh, death in sight.

They be the boss.

God help us all"

Anonymous graffiti, men's toilets, twelfth floor, Harlun and Phelps
"While all and any are welcome to attend the regular meetings of Magicals Anonymous, or even pop by at our drop-in surgery, we do ask that if you are inclined to spontaneous combustion or actively leaking organic fluids from the unwinding hollows of your flesh, you use the overalls provided"

Notice pinned to the offices of Magicals Anonymous, 89C Little Lion Street, London WC1
Dedication
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He said, "No, wait, you don't want to..."
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They were hunters, all of them, in their different ways. And sure, in recent years they may have chosen antibacterial hand wash over hot blood, and Impressionist art over raw pigeon, but there was a reason they had been asked to guard Old Man Bone's rusted blade.
So I think it boils down to this: find the guy with the glass blade; find the guys who summoned the glass god; find the mobile phone that Swift is so hung up on - sorry, didn't mean for it to come out like that...
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"Sharon Li: apprentice shaman and community support officer for the magically inclined. It wasn't the career Sharon had in mind, but she's getting used to running Magicals Anonymous and learning how to Be One with the City. When the Midnight Mayor goes missing, leaving only a suspiciously innocent-looking umbrella behind him, Sharon finds herself promoted. Her first task: find the Midnight Mayor. The only clues she has are a city dryad's cryptic warning and several pairs of abandoned shoes"--… (more)

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