by Kate Griffen

Sorcerer Matthew Swift is dead. Long live Mathew Swift. But who killed him and, more importantly, who’s brought him back from the dead?

      Kate Griffen’s first ‘mature’ novel follows a long tradition of an imagined, esoteric London. The capital she describes is a wonderful metropolis cluttered with ephemera, marginal lives and an underbelly where magic is real and demons can be conjured out of litter. In this, her city is more akin to the imaginings of Barker than it is to Rowling’s Diagon Alley, but the common thread of a secret otherworld glimpsed between the cracks in the pavement remains.

      Bikers, beggars and bag ladies are the mystics of this detritus filled landscape and chief in the stakes of magical influence are the sorcerers – protagonist Matthew Swift being just such a practitioner. He has recently returned after being slaughtered by an entity called Hunger only to discover that almost all of his kind have been summarily executed. It’s as a confused and isolated individual – battling with the schizoid dilemma of having otherworldly entities sharing his mind – that Swift emerges. However, it’s not long before he begins to use his powers to seek understanding and, in time, revenge.

      He is a remarkable character, surrounded by a series of almost Dickensian grotesques, all presented in exquisite detail. And it’s at this microscopic level that Griffen displays her precocious talent as a writer. There’s something very solid, very tangible about the mystical city she presents – a grubby realism that adds conviction to all her magical structures. The beggar king exits, but requires the sacrifice of a day’s ‘takings’ before he’ll give an audience. Bikers can, quite literally, make the road shorten in front of them and lycanthropes sport socks and sandals in order to give their toes room to transform. All meticulously planned, but never at the cost of becoming self indulgent.

      A breath-taking entrance, then, onto the stage of fantastical fiction and deserved praise for the new flesh of the enchanting Mr. Swift. May we see more of him soon.