Jul 3, 2011

Book Review– The Neon Court by Kate Griffin

Griffin_Neon-Court-HC-197x300The Neon Court: Or, the Betrayal of Matthew Swift is the third book in Kate Griffin’s Urban Fantasy series.  Kate Griffin also happens to be the pseudonym of Catherine Webb, a Carnegie Award nominated childrens/young adult author.

Kate has been writing and published since she was 14 and it shows. The Neon Court is mature writing, both in content and style. 
The nigh time urban landscape of London is described in beautifully evocative prose, Griffin paints London in phrases that leaves the reader with a real sense of place; snatches of conversation, graffiti, little details that can seem both familiar and exotic to anyone who has travelled through urban sprawl.

The Story
Matthew Swift is the Midnight Mayor, the magical guardian of London.  He’s also been killed and resurrected- his body and mind shared by the Blue Electric Angels.  In this volume Matthew must find a chosen one, prevent a war between the Tribe and the Neon Court and prevent London disappearing due to a mysterious entity called Blackout.

What’s to like?
Plenty.  Swift is a well fleshed out reluctant hero.  Despite his position as Mayor he seems to need to convince all the players, including his own Aldermen, that his word or decisions should be listened to. His initial reluctance to throw his weight around, teamed with a talent for getting beaten up make him very likeable.  I am reminded of Steven De Selby in Trent Jamieson’s Death most Definite, only Swift is less of a wimp.

The dialogue is quick, witty and laced with black humour.  The best of it seen between Swift and his magically volatile apprentice, Penny. I could see the series translating to television exceptionally well. 

The writing is full of flavour, whether it’s pacey run on sentences that allow Griffin to paint the urban landscape in quick brushstrokes
I scampered beneath railway bridges, past stately halls and tumbling semi-detached houses, through grey council estates and down roads of politely austere Victorian terraced houses.  My eye wandered over  street signs proclaiming:
Slow Down School
Residential Parking Zone M – No parking without a permit
and the somewhat vague
Watch Children
and finally came to a pause on the edge  of Roman road, by an off-licence advertising six pints of Polish Beer for £ 4, and red wine at £ 3.99 a bottle.
or in the street lingo of the Tribe- reminiscent of Ali G.

The concept is also unique, there’s the comparison to Neverwhere of course, but where the former tends to be  a parallel world out of sync with the modern, there’s a real sense of forward momentum in Griffin’s work.  The appearance of the Neon Court, one of the ancient faerie courts, is reminiscent 80’s glamour metal or Lady Gaga.  The Tribe echoes the anti-corporate anarchy present in violent protests against corporate banking we have seen in recent years.  There is a sense that the magic substructure of London has adapted and continues to evolve beneath everyday life.

A Speed bump
There was only one section of the book that threw me out of my immersion.  A long and uncharacteristic info dump on page 114 where the character Sinclair gives the reader the background to Oda, the embodiment of the encroaching darkness.  While the information is necessary it was dry, ill fitting and not what I had come to expect from the novel.

Final thoughts
Very well written, original and evocative work and nary a tattooed small of the back in sight.  While it certainly read perfectly well as a stand alone, I’d recommend the previous books before embarking one this one – it will only add to the enjoyment.

This book was provided by the publisher at no extra cost to myself. Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader or Follow me on twitter.


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