Review: A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Review: A Madness of Angels by Kate GriffinA Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin
Series: Matthew Swift #1
Published by Orbit on April 6th 2009
Pages: 464
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Two years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home.
Except that it's no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable...despite his body never being found.

He doesn't have long to mull over his resurrection, though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.

Thoughts:  I really wish I could write a 5 star review for this book. Honest to God, A Madness of Angels has one of the most creative, mind-blowing universes I’ve ever read – filled with monsters and magic that are unfamiliar yet instantly recognisable. Yet, its’ length and dense writing made A Madness of Angels a difficult book to finish. Even though I loved it, I could only read 4-5 pages at a time – it took me 4 months to finish! There is just so much to absorb in every line, and there are many many many lines.

Griffin created a lead character with a hell of a wit.  Matthew Swift is king of the one-liners. Even though I never became emotionally invested in any of the characters, I truly enjoyed their banter. I was constantly jotting down lines to remember and reuse!  Speaking of which:

“Oh Matthew.  How did things ever come to this?”
“You know,” I replied.  “I’m only two restraints, a cramp and a cocktail of drugs away from shrugging contemptuously in answer to that one.”

What impressed me the most was the way Griffin wrote about London.  Griffin understands London in a way that few do: the social structures, the transport system, the bizarre Londonite habits, the cities-within-the-city. And she takes “urban magic” into every inch of London – from Oyster cards to Muswell Hill, even the smallest urban habit makes up the magic of London. It’s fan-bloody-tastic. I picked this book up right when I moved away from the city, and every paragraph was like a trip home.  Griffin set battle scenes in streets, restaurants and tube stations I knew backwards – it will be hard for me to go back without seeing Griffin’s urban magic in the air.  If you want to know London – and it’s unique brand of magic – this is the book for you.

But as I mentioned, the characters in A Madness of Angels were rather… unfulfilling.  I never particularly cared whether anyone lived or died, I never particularly hated the “villians”, and I never really bonded with any of the “heros”.  You don’t have to like characters in order to enjoy a book, but they do need to strike some sort of emotion within you…. even if it is utter loathing!  I never got there with A Madness of Angels, and it made the numerous climatic scenes rather anti-climatic.

Bottom line? Griffin puts the urban into urban fantasy. A Madness of Angels has the most imaginative writing/setting/characters I have read in a long time – although it’s not the most emotionally engaging work out there. This book is a masterwork – and as dense as an epic too.