Kate Griffin – The Neon Court

The third instalment in the so-called Matthew Swift urban fantasy series by Kate Griffin is The Neon Court (2011). After the second novel, The Midnight Mayor, the main protagonist has lost part of his control on his life and duties have been set upon him on different levels. Basically it means he is no longer a man on his own and this at least guarantees that the narrative follows a different flow and Griffin does so.

Although the main protagonist is thrown intro fray at the start for the third time in a row he is now not hunted or otherwise. He has established himself within the magical society now. While there is one case he does not want to get involved in and another he does it quickly becomes obvious that they are connected but not exactly how. The plot then revolves about trying to keep a conflict at bay while trying to counter a major threat to the city. There is a bit of misdirection in the plot and Griffin manages to keep things unclear until the final stage. Of course it helps that the pace is fast and events happen so quickly that the reader had little time to think about what is going on, but that is the idea of most urban fantasies. The story is a rollercoaster ride and you don’t really think about the logic of the plot as the story threads are so interwoven that it is already hard to keep up as they often are not directly related to each. Usually the protagonist has to juggle with several balls and solve each separately. Fortunately Griffin does not do it that crazy. The threads steadily converge as relationships become clearer which makes it a more gentler read.

As the story is told from a first person narrative there is plenty of room to develop the character of the main protagonist. With such a rapid plot development in which the protagonist has no time to think or consider his situation it can be hard to do and for one part it is so here as well. Griffin manages to make a difference because the protagonist is not alone anymore. He has something of an apprentice and his newly acquired duties also provide him with so-called assistents from the early stage. This makes room to develop somewhat of relationships between these characters as they stay along for the ride and are not just temporary companions. There is more comedy in the dialogue as each try to cope with the grim situations they are in. There was no lack of humour in the previous novels but now there is room to do more with it. The main protagonist himself is a bit more relaxed in his state of mind as there are elements of stability in his life now. To make some psychological development Griffin introduces a convenient magical concept that gives the main protagonist something to harry his thoughts. It does have the right effect although its idea is rather convenient and less believable.

The Neon Court provides a new and exciting urban fantasy story that will keep the reader turning the pages. Griffin compensates the further reduction of fresh and new elements by providing the main protagonist with an apprentice and assistents who give him more regular interactions and not make him a lonely man on the run. The plot is also a bit more complicated as things are not everywhere what they seem to be and the overall violence can be considered to have lessened a bit. The only thing that did became repetitive is that there is again a major threat to the city that could destroy all. It can get a bit boring if the main protagonist has to save the world every time. One can write a plot that can be just as engaging and terrifying on different levels. There is actually another threat in the aforementioned conflict in which the main protagonist gets involved. From the title of the novel I had expected this conflict would be center stage with the named Neon Court the thing being explored and expanded to the readers’ interest. In that sense it is another misdirection because the Neon Court plays a relatively small role only in the events. They are just one of the parties involved and we learn very little about it. In that way there were some missed opportunities because Griffin chose to create bigger threat around which the plot really revolved. Overall Griffin maintains a steady level in the quality of her novels and that is a strong incentive to keep reading. Recommended.

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