Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge - A Madness of Angels
Yesterday I reviewed Charles de Lint's Moonheart, and today I'm going to review A Madness of Angels, both of which I read for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge. They are both excellent fantasy books, different kinds of fantasy, though they share one thing: an urban setting. Moonheart is set in Ottawa, Canada, where I currently live. A Madness of Angels is set in London England, where I'd like to live. I don't know if it is being classified as steampunk fantasy, but that is what came to mind as I was reading it. I had picked it up last year, but it was Geraniumcat's review here that convinced me I should read it soon. Then my current Locus magazine (unfortunately the review is not available online yet) arrived with a review of all three of the books in the series. I am so glad that I picked it up to read last week.
A Madness of Angels is an amazing look at the darker magical side of London - a London that is slightly seedy and noirish, but mostly magical. As Geraniumcat says, it's like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman; both books make you look at the London Underground and the train stations with different eyes. Graffiti are messages, and you can see London through eyes other than humans', in A Madness of Angels. The main character, Matthew Swift, is a sorcerer, and able to see through the eyes of creatures inhabiting the city, among his many and varied talents.
A Madness of Angels opens up with a change frequently in 'I' to 'We' point of view, which like Geraniumcat, put me off slightly at first, though this quickly resolves itself into who is telling the story. Matthew has been dead, for 2 years, before his resurrection, and this is the story of why he is summoned back to the world of the living, and the new 'we' who are experiencing life for the first time. It's fascinating and I found compelling reading, the mix of Matthew's soul with the angels, and how they see London becomes our view through this mix of old and new eyes. I loved it. I enjoyed the mix of characters, and how they suspected one another, the various magical factions, and especially, the menacing evil and danger of "Hunger", the creature that is stalking Matthew. This is dark fantasy with almost a gothic feel, with the dark areas of London, the hidden magical areas and arcane sources of knowledge creating a deeper space for the city to take on a layered personality also. There are varied groups of people - bikers, witches, magicians, other sorcerers, beggars, and most of all, the city of London itself, with its vitality and energy and millions upon millions of thoughts, feelings, and energy of the people inhabiting it creating a vibrant place that for people who are sensitive to it, becomes a form of magic also. This is a fascinating way of looking at the energy of a city. I wonder what New York City, or Paris, or Hong Kong would be like for mages, how their magics would work there. It's also the story of how technology becomes more than the sum of its electronic parts, and this is what gives it it's steampunk feel. Matthew says often, life is magic, and this feeling lifts this book above much of modern urban fantasy, for me. It's a wonderful, fantastic read.
For the story itself, Matthew is a likeable, intelligent, humourous (as in he has a sense of humour) character, as we see him search for who summoned him, and the discovery that becoming one with the angels in the telephones - with the electric blue fire - holds its own dangers for him. "Be Free' has a whole new meaning after reading this fantasy book. I enjoyed it tremendously and have already added the sequel, The Midnight Mayor, to my to-buy list.
Please let me know if you have read this book, and I will add your review below.
Geranium Cat's Book Shelf