Kate Griffin – A Madness Of Angels

Kate Griffin has taken the definition of urban fantasy to a new level with A Madness Of Angels (2009). Whereas most of the urban fantasy novels found simply rehash familiar fantasy tropes in a modern setting, Griffin has made them evolve. For this she has used a simple concept for magic and applied it to the modern age. What resulted was urban magic, magic that originates, is defined and applied by modern technology and urban elements. That is as far as I will go in disclosing the essence of the novel. Just this evolution is enough to create a refreshing story in a familiar setting.

The story is told in a first person narrative. The reader thus only knows what the main protagonist knows although it is soon clear that something strange is going on. Fortunately the main protagonist is thrust into the scene without knowing what is going on and this allows Griffin to gradually recover the information to build up the background of the main protagonist as he tries to figure out what is going on and how it relates to his past. As the main protagonist is somewhat unusual this provides a compelling read.

The plot is not much different from the typical urban fantasy page turner as the main protagonist is hunted from the start while he tries to set up his own hunt to discover what is going on. I have not read a lot of urban fantasy so I can only say that in comparison the plot is relatively straightforward. The main protagonist is not thrown from one crisis to the next in which multiple story threads struggle to remain on top. Instead the plot goes from clear to unclear in which uncertainties are removed as the different parties involved decide which side to take. It is in fact early on visible where the final confrontation is headed although Griffin keeps it in doubt a bit. There could be a major twist but as the story develops the reader sees that Griffin is not one to throw her story around to keep the reader off their footing. These are the weaker elements of the novel although others might prefer a less rampant plot. For me there could have been a bit more ambiguity. The good and the bad are too obvious despite attempts to make it seem not so clear.

The strength of the novel hinges on the very interesting main protagonist, whose approach and behavior follow unusual patterns, and the highly original urban magic used. Perhaps others have invented similar things before (and I may have read them) but these did not make their mark as much as Griffin has done. The range, variety and complexity of the magic are really great and thus make a strong impression.

I really enjoyed this novel. It is original in many facets and breathes a different kind of urban fantasy in comparison to the usual fare. Picking up the next novel in the series is a no-brainer. Much recommended.

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