The Neon Court (A Matthew Swift Novel) by Kate Griffin (book review).

It is not often that a writer can achieve acclaim under three different names. Usually, if an author changes direction they are informed that they will be treated like a new author and subsequently will be offered a lower advance. Quality, though, will always shine. This author started her career at fourteen, publishing ‘Mirror Dreams’ the first of her novels for teens. Now she writes science fiction under the name Clare North. In between, as Kate Griffin, she has produced a series of complex, powerful urban fantasy novels set in London.

Don’t be seduced into thinking that these are the usual fare with vampires and werewolves running riot. They definitely are not. The myths they draw on are deeper and darker.

In ‘A Madness of Angels’, the first in this series, we are introduced to Matthew Swift. He is a dead sorcerer. The Blue Electric Angels have evolved from all those little bits of conversation and emotion that were left in the telephone wires after one party hung up. They are curious and dangerous. They have reanimated Matthew Swift so that in many ways he is a manifestation of the angels. In the second volume, ‘The Midnight Mayor’ he is unwantedly given that position. The Midnight Mayor has responsibility for London at night, keeping it safe from sorcerous threats.

As ‘The Neon Court’ opens, Matthew finds himself bodily summoned to a derelict tower block which is on fire. He is not the only one there. Oda, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to kill him, is there but she is asking for help. It is only after they escape that Matthew learns that he is now in the centre of what is likely to be a very nasty war. The Neon Court is ruled by Lady Neon. The members are fairies, not cute winged creatures but more of the bloodthirsty kind.

Opposing them is the Tribe, who give the appearance of being the dregs of society. It appears that there was a ‘chosen one’ at the tower block and whoever has her, the Neon Court or The Tribe, will come out top in the impending war. Mathew is given forty-eight hours to find the girl.

Added to this problem, bits of London seem to be disappearing. Parts of the maps are blank. The cause is Blackout. This entity has an equivalent genesis to the Blue Electric Angels, except he has evolved from all the little fears hidden in dark places. It is an entity that can never be fully banished, merely driven back into the dark places. It has been banished before and the only ones that can give Matthew the clues he needs to save London are Oda, who still wants to kill him, and Bakker, the sorcerer he killed in the first volume. Fortunately, Bakker’s final breath was collected and Matthew can use that to help him, if he dares.

This is a complex book with twisting narratives. Matthew’s London is a real place and the dangers in it palpable. While it is an urban fantasy it is unlike the usual run-of-the-mill romps. It garbs the reader by the throat and dumps them straight into peril. Very highly recommended.

Pauline Morgan

September 2020

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(pub: Orbit/LittleBrown, 2011. 366 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-901-7)

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