The Midnight Mayor

The Midnight Mayor
By Kate Griffin
Published on March 8, 2010
Published by Orbit
Source: Purchased
It's said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, then the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. Resurrected sorcerer Matthew Swift is about to discover that this isn't so far from the truth...

One by one, the protective magical wards that guard the city are falling: the London Wall defiled with cryptic graffiti, the ravens found dead at the Tower, the London Stone destroyed. This is not good news. This array of supernatural defenses - a mix of international tourist attractions and forgotten urban legends - formed a formidable magical shield, one that could protect London from the greatest threat it has ever known. But what could be so dangerous as to threaten an entire city?

Against his better judgment, Matthew Swift is about to find out. And if he's lucky, he might just live long enough to do something about it...
The Midnight Mayor is the second book in Kate Griffin's series focusing on Matthew Swift, an urban sorcerer in contemporary London. Matthew is the kind of guy who trouble just finds, whether he likes it or not. In the series' first book, A Madness of Angels, we met Matthew, a formerly dead sorcerer brought back to life with the added bonus of sharing his consciousness with the blue electric angels, the manifestation of bits of magic and life left behind in the phone lines. It makes for a unique, volatile combination in Matthew, who wasn't even a particularly notable sorcerer before he died. Now that he's back, though, everyone and everything is after him. 

Once again, this book starts out with Matthew being dropped into the middle of a completely unexpected situation. Just like last time, he has no idea where he is or how he got there; all he knows is that something is trying to destroy him. It seems to be a pretty common situation for him to be in; maybe he should start getting used to it. Matthew is quickly plunged into the shadowy world of the Midnight Mayor, who's tasked with protecting London from all sorts of malevolent types of magic. And something wicked is bent on destroying London, and poor Matthew is the only one who can stop it. 

There are many familiar faces from the first book, including Vera, leader of a clan that uses graffiti as its magic, and Oda, an assassin from a religious sect who is determined to kill Matthew just as soon as he stops being useful. We also meet several new characters, many of whom will become important allies to Matthew. This book follows a similar formula to the first: Matthew gets in horrible situation, Matthew tries to fix it and kind of screws up, no one believes he can be useful, surprise! he actually is. It's an effective way of keeping the story moving forward, though, and introducing new concepts to readers. There are sometimes lengthy flashbacks or asides as Matthew or another character explains something new that the characters need to know about. Info-dumping can sometimes come be tedious, but Griffin's writing style always makes it sound conversational, and afterwards, Swift seems just as apologetic or annoyed as the reader does to have had to wade through all that nonsense. 

Swift is a fascinating main character because he's not your typical sort of hero. He's never described as dreamy or really, anything other than ordinary; he doesn't have women lined up to chase after him (indeed, his priorities are mostly along the lines of "staying alive" rather than "finding a girlfriend"). He's a very powerful sorcerer but sometimes doesn't quite know how to control it or what to do with it, but he's otherwise got no special skills other than "getting in trouble" and "still not dying". He's sarcastic and kind of bitter and very annoyed with everyone around him. (Just my type, really!) 

Griffin's created a rich new world of urban magic that draws on the every-day and the ordinary in the city and turns it into something fantastic and otherworldy. The prose is the same dense, descriptive style that you hopefully came to love in the first book. Griffin's really got an eye for hiding important little details in amongst all those thoughts and observations of Matthew's, and even without that, the writing is so thorough that it's easy to get lost in the very real streets of London that she describes. This series is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and I can't wait to move on to the next book.

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