The Neon Court

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Neon Court
Kate Griffin, 2011

New Release! Book provided by the publisher for review via NetGalley
NB: Kate Griffin is the adult fiction pen name of Catherine Webb 

Okay, first I have to come clean. I didn't request this book for review because I liked the sound of it. I did like the sound of it, it sounded fun and scrappy and not romantic, but I requested it because I found out Ms. Griffin, besides being an author, is a lighting tech. I, when the economy is feeling up to it, am a stage manager, so I feel a certain kinship.

Literary Theater Techs Unite!

Happily, I quite liked the book, so no harm came of my impulse.

Premise: Matthew Swift, Midnight Mayor of London (that's a sort of magical enforcer/leader/diplomat) has just a couple of problems. First, two of the larger magical factions, the Neon Court and the Tribe, are on the brink of war over a murder. Second, an sometime friend of his seems to have a nasty case of should-be-dead-but-somehow-isn't. Somewhere in all this is a prophecy, a conspiracy, and an encroaching evil dangerous enough to give the most powerful beings in London nightmares. Can he save the city, his friends, and himself?

I hadn't read the two books that come before this one, and through much of the book that wasn't a problem. A few times, though, complicated consequences from the earlier volumes came up, and I think I could have followed the minor characters more easily if I had more context.

I especially liked the details of this book; the writing was strong in tactile imagery. The imagination and originality of the setting was fantastic, but it fell apart for me a little in the big picture. The plot hangs together well, I just at some point found it less compelling than I did when it started, although I couldn't put my finger on why.

I did really like it, I just wanted slightly more, perhaps a more satisfying climax.

The main character, Matthew Swift, was wonderful. There was a touch of modern noir here between the darkness of the setting and Swift's habit of getting himself beaten up. He means well, but doesn't always know the right thing to do, and has a propensity to just bull ahead into a dangerous situation and make it up as he goes. I admire that.

I liked Penny the wiseass sidekick, and I liked the completely realized, complex flavors of the different factions warring in the city. The magic is really cool, this specifically urban magic bound up in public transit and electricity and litter.

One bit of the plot which I loved was a nice twist where Griffin put enough subtle information in so that as the reader, I realized something was wrong before the characters did.

Overall it's a very inventive world with well drawn characters, although something in the plot, maybe the tension, didn't entirely coalesce for me. I'll look for the previous volumes, though, and look forward to more work from this author.

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

The Neon Court is for sale on

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