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.

Other Reviews:
Geranium Cat's Book Shelf

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Where did the time go?

Things I did this past month:

1.Picked up countless books to read, started them, put them down again.
2.Went to physio. Advised might need surgery eventually.  Confirmed meniscus (cartilage) tear in knee.
3. Two setbacks with healing knee. Enjoy healing techniques at physio tremendously.  Discover might need to buy exercise bike after all, if only for knee recovery.  Have not told husband yet.
4. Bought a cane.
5. Bought plane tickets to England for 10 days for husband's 40th birthday, sent daughter along with husband for grandparents to hug and cuddle on April 14.
6. Heroically survived 7 days without spouse, with wounded knee and six year old son. Managed to do laundry, dishes, make lunches, get to work.  Knee gave out once.
7.  On the 7th day (last Thursday), son woke up with pain.  Ended up in Children's hospital emergency department, and then with 3 day stay at hospital while son was intravenously fed antibiotics for a skin infection called cellulitis.
8. Discovered at hospital that not having a cell phone and being alone with child meant limited and collect phone calls anywhere.  Decided cell phones were required after all.  So is laptop.  Have not told husband about desire for laptop. 
9. Discovered that the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is an excellent caring facility for sick kids, with warm and caring nurses.  Realized after one night that torn meniscus + pull-out cot for parents = pain.  Slept in chair for other two nights.
10. Arrived home thankful for recovering child, to greet returning husband and daughter the next day.
11.  Somehow a month has passed without blogging.  How did this happen?  Wonder how life is speeding up as I age, instead of slowing down.  
12.  Feel need for holiday.

What I am learning as I have now not been shopping (even groceries) for 6 whole weeks:  what I really need to be happy is my health, my family (and their health), some books, and some chocolate, and to be able to go for walks again.

Books read that saved the day: 3
The Tapestry of Love - Rosy Thornton.  4.5/5  I really enjoyed this book.  I especially loved the first half, when Catherine moves to a new home in the Cevanne mountains and begins her life over again after a divorce.  I loved the evocative rhythms of life in the mountains, the slowing of everything down to the movements of  the days and seasons in the Cevannes.  It was like a rural retreat for my soul, too.  My biggest problem with the novel is Catherine's sister, and what happens with Catherine's new friend down the road, Patrick.  In my family, with us sisters, what happened would be almost unforgiveable.  It is explained in the book, but it still troubled me after.  I don't want to give it away as a spoiler, and it didn't detract from the wonderful setting and life Catherine is creating, or the book.  It was more a distraction that I didn't feel was needed.  I could have a read this story all about Catherine in her new village and it would have been terrific just with that.  It really is a lovely novel.  Just what I needed to help take my mind of my hurt knee and inability to go anywhere at all.

Moonheart - Charles de Lint. 4.7/5.   This was a reread for me.  I first read Moonheart 20 odd years ago. It was the first book by Charles de Lint that I read.  I fell instantly in love.  I really of course, loved Tamson House, the mysterious, wonderful, magical house that protects everyone within, that is set square in the middle of Ottawa, in a neighborhood called the Glebe.  The Glebe really does exist, and is one of my favourite parts of town for shopping in.  Tamson House, sadly, doesn't exist, although even knowing that, reading about it's location - and it is set is specific parts of the Glebe that could be Tamson House, only makes me wish more desperately that it did exist.
      Upon rereading it, I found I loved it as much on this time around.  I see things now in the book that I didn't see before, such as recurring themes in Charles' work as the other worlds that mythic beings inhabit, that certain magical items in ours can transport characters to for encounters with these beings. Celtic myths are entertwined with Native American mythology, a big recurring theme in the Charles's works.  One of the more unusual features is the presence of the police (in the form of our RCMP), and government officials, and a criminal element that is frightening, violent, and makes for an interesting mix. The main characters are Charles' wonderful mix of fun and realistic and just a little bit fey.  Highly recommended fantasy book, that was among the first that started the urban fantasy books of the 1980's.  4.8/5
I really want to find Tamson House, still!!!

I can't write more, electrical storm is suddenly come around the house, so I will be back with more reviews and catch up in the next couple of days.  I have to talk about the new Dr Who season premiere!!!