The Glass God is the second book in Kate Griffin’s Magicals Anonymous series. These books are set in the same magical London as the MATTHEW SWIFT books, but follow the character of Sharon Li, barista turned shaman turned “community support worker” for various magical beings in the greater London area.
While Swift, a sorcerer, is a loner and a one-person army of anarchy, that’s not how Sharon rolls. She is a shaman, and shamans by definition must function in service to a tribe. As Sharon herself puts it, Swift is “such a bad-ass, such a fire-brand, look at all the stuff he’s blown up,” while she is “so ‘cuppa tea in the afternoon.’” Swift, the Midnight Mayor, the night guardian of the city of London, has recognized his own shortcomings, though (for example, no one would accuse him of having good people skills) and hired Sharon for exactly her “let’s work through our issues” mindset.
Now Swift is missing, and people are disappearing, leaving only their shoes, often tied together and flung over lampposts. Swift’s supernaturally perky Personal Assistant, Kelly, comes to Sharon for help. Sharon and her “tribe” — a troll who wants to be a gourmet cook, a germ-phobic vampire, a banshee and a druid with a crush on Sharon — set out to rescue Swift and figure out who is killing random citizens of London.
Griffin provides humor and fun while still painting a dark undertone to these books, although they are lighter than the Swift books. Sharon is a shaman-in-training, and her mentor is a bad-mannered and bad-tempered goblin named Sammy the Elbow. As she searches both for the missing Swift and the reason for the disappearances, Sharon encounters The Tribe, a group of outcasts and throw-away people who have carried self-mutilation to a whole new level and who talk in text-speak. As with Stray Souls, the first book, many of the chapters in this book are less than one page long and some read like prose-poems, and, as with Swift, Griffin uses an impressionistic approach to language when Sharon slips into her shamanic state and catches glimpses of the history of objects or places.
Griffin played fair with the clues but managed to keep me guessing about what — or who — was behind the disappearances. Sharon’s relationship with the blue electric angels, who are one-half of Matthew Swift, was touching, and Sharon’s growth as a shaman was fun to watch. By the end of the book, Sharon is much more than someone who runs a support group for magicals.
All that said, I did not enjoy this book as much as I have enjoyed the MATTHEW SWIFT books. Part of the reason for that is Sharon, or rather, Sharon’s voice. Griffin is excellent at using dialogue styles to demonstrate character. You do not need a speech tag of “he/she said,” for instance, to know when Sammy the Elbow is speaking, or Kelly the Personal Assistant. Sharon also has a speaking style unique to her. She babbles. She is the main character in this book, and she works mostly by talking. This meant she spoke a lot and I found her style annoying. When members of the Tribe were speaking, I had to slow down to decipher their text-lingo, but that was more like a puzzle; with Sharon, I often had to back up and reread some slangy discursion marked off by commas in order to understand what she was saying.
I also felt that, once again, I had drifted into Terry Pratchett territory, specifically DISCWORLD, a few too many times with this book. Some of that is Griffin’s insistence on dialect; some of it is about the themes she is exploring. (Sharon, running a Magicals Anonymous group, is practically a Pratchett character right there.) I know that Pratchett is ill, but he is still around and we don’t need to appoint a successor quite yet.
Sharon is an enjoyable character, but Matthew Swift and the blue electric angels is (are?) a unique fantasy character, which makes Swift a hard act to follow. I appreciate the ideas here, particularly her treatment of shamanism and the contrast between the anarchic loner and the leader who brings people together, so while it doesn’t get the accolades from me that the Swift books have, I recommend The Glass God to anyone who has liked Matthew Swift, or is looking for a new take on urban fantasy.
Matthew Swift — (2009-2012) Publisher: For Matthew Swift, today is not like any other day. It is the day on which he returns to life. 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.
Magicals Anonymous — (2012-2013) Set in the same world as MATTHEW SWIFT. Publisher: Sharon Li has just discovered she’s a shaman. And just in time: London’s soul has gone missing. If anyone can solve the mystery and rescue the dying city, she can, but she’ll need help-from the support group she’s just set up for people with magical issues. Among them are a vampire who is O, a druid who suffers from allergies and a lack of confidence, and a banshee looking for an evening class in impressionist art. Now, this motley crew must find a way to save the world ….