The Midnight Mayor: Or, the Inauguration of Matthew Swift
by Kate Griffin
Cover Artist: Photo: Shutterstock
Review by Drew Bittner
Orbit Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316041232
Date: 08 March 2010 List Price $19.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Matthew Swift is not having a good day. After having been killed and then resurrected, through bonding with the awakened spirits of electricity known as the blue electric angels, he's the only sorcerer in London. Now it appears he's been nominated for a new job: the Midnight Mayor, who keeps London safe from mystical harm. But with the Tower of London's ravens dead and the city's mystic protections shattered, it's going to be one hell of a tough job...
Kate Griffin's sequel to A Madness of Angels finds Matthew Swift burned and bloody, lying next to a phone in a bad neighborhood. He had been tracking down a teenage punk named Mo as a favor to an innocent bystander, but by picking up a call from a payphone, he's been plunged into a much darker situation.
Turns out the city of London is under a death sentence. Something has happened, a curse has been levied on the city, and Matthew Swift is the only one who can do anything about it. Problem is, he's badly injured, deprived of his usual resources and has no idea what being the Midnight Mayor entails. And if that weren't bad enough, the ones who should be helping him--the mystic cabal known as the Aldermen--think he murdered the previous Mayor and have set a holy zealot assassin to watch over him.
With little more than grit and desperation, not to mention the uncanny abilities he's acquired since his rebirth as a hybrid entity, Swift pursues the trail marked by the unsettling words "Give me back my hat!" through the city's surreal shadows...and discovers that his last case, finding Mo, has a strange bearing on the city's imminent destruction. The embodiment of the death of cities, a papery creature named Mr. Pinner, wants to stop Swift from making these connections at all cost, because he is ready to see London burn.
If Swift cannot discover the link between the death of London and a missing teenager, however, London's last days are counting down.
Griffin has delivered the next generation in urban fantasy, constructing a tale wherein London itself is a major character. Few writers have ever taken this aspect of "urban" to heart, but Griffin goes for the gusto and it pays off. A reader will feel as though they have assimilated a bit of London into their DNA by the end of the book, so thoroughly does the city breathe in these pages.
Among the mortal characters, Swift is a deft and intriguing entity as well, half sorcerer and half awakened electricity, achieving wondrous things at a grievous personal cost. Like John Constantine of DC Comics fame, he seems cursed to use (and use up) his acquaintances and good fortune alike.
One such acquaintance is Oda, whose Order intends to destroy everything of magic in the name of God. She is forced to become Swift's unwilling ally, lest the city suffer a worse fate than a single sorcerer walking its streets. Likewise, the Aldermen have a complicated relationship with Swift, founded on distrust and not a little jealousy (seems one of their number was supposed to become the Midnight Mayor...).
Mr. Pinner, the death of cities, is a delightful villain, polite and patient, assured of his victory regardless of the hero's struggles. He is an unstoppable force, equipped with devastating power--the heroes cannot fight him directly (as realized in a battle in an apartment block) but must run and hope to find a key to overcoming this monster.
Once Swift finds that key, though, all bets are off and the climax is truly a running battle through the streets of pre-dawn London. The characters stand (and some fall), with a resolution that lies in their integrity rather than their raw power.
It's quite a fun read, if not a lightning-fast one, and is the product of an imaginative, provocative writer.