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It wasn't the career Sharon had in mind, but she's getting used to running Magicals Anonymous and learning how to Be One With The City.
When the Midnight Mayor goes missing, leaving only a suspiciously innocent-looking umbrella behind him, Sharon finds herself promoted. Her first task: find the Midnight Mayor. The only ...
It wasn't the career Sharon had in mind, but she's getting used to running Magicals Anonymous and learning how to Be One With The City.
When the Midnight Mayor goes missing, leaving only a suspiciously innocent-looking umbrella behind him, Sharon finds herself promoted. Her first task: find the Midnight Mayor. The only clues she has are a city dryad's cryptic message of doom and several pairs of abandoned shoes ...
Suddenly, Sharon's job feels a whole lot harder.
Shaman Sharon Li's adventures continue among the magical beings of modern-day London in this spell-binding sequel to Stray Souls.
Listen to the Expert
He said, "No, wait, you don't want to ..."
But, as was so often the case, no one listened.
Which was why the next thing they said was, "We told you so."
Things went downhill from there.CHAPTER 2
Keep Your Feet on the Ground
He feels something press against his thigh, and half turns in indignation.
But the person who just brushed by is still walking calmly on, shoulders hunched, head down beneath a trilby hat, and Darren, as he brushes his leg, can't feel any blood, and is already half wondering if he imagined it. Perhaps he did. He's had a bit to drink and while he's okay–of course, he's fine!–it's easy to get jumpy on a lonely night.
He walks on, past the shuttered convenience store and the locked-up laundrette, beneath the painting on the wall of the grinning monkey, banana in hand, and through the accusing stare of the policeman drawn on the metal grille that guards the tattoo parlour, whose graffittoed face warns all passers-by that this shop is his shop. He turns the corner into the terraced road where he lives, six to the flat share, a house with a nice back garden where they sometimes try to have a barbecue in order to force the weather to turn to rain, walks three more paces, and pauses.
Stares at nothing in particular, then down at the ground.
He seems ... surprised.
It appears to Darren, and indeed to anyone who might be observing Darren at the time, that suddenly everything he's known up to this point has been meaningless. All that was has passed him by, and all that remains is everything which is, and yet to come. He is used to having such profound thoughts at two in the morning after a night in the pub, but it seems to him that this is, perhaps, revelatory. A feeling deeper, truer and more meaningful than anything he has ever experienced with or without the aid of illegal substances, ever before.
And so, for tomorrow can only come if we let go of today, he reaches down to his shoes, and carefully slips them off his feet. His socks are stripy, multicoloured, a reminder, he always felt, that underneath his veneer of clean white shirt and sensible trousers, he once fought for social freedoms and artistic expression. He flexes his toes on the ground, feeling the sudden damp chill of the paving stones rise up through the clean fabric, into the soles of his feet. He lifts up his shoes, carefully unpicking the knot in the laces, then, once they are free, ties the laces back together, one shoe to the other. He raises his head, looking for something suitable for his purposes, and sees a lamppost with a long neck sticking out over the street. He steps back a few paces, to get a better line of sight, then, whirling his shoes overhead, spins them like an Olympic champion and, with a great heave of his arm, lets the shoes fly. They tumble through the air, one over the other, and hook across the neck of the lamppost, tangling a few times round as they come to rest, to form a noose of shoelace across the metal top.
And, just like that, Darren is gone.CHAPTER 3
Honour Your Ancestors
This is a long process, made longer by the great deal of time it has spent not waking. Its mouth is stuffed with soil, its bones pressed down by the crushing weight of earth above it. Not all the earth is pure dirt: it stirs, and something sharp and brown lodges against its back. It smells dust, skin-dust, that has seeped down through the grains of broken stone and rotting wool. The fibres of the clothing around it tangle and pull like the threads of a spider's web, and as it stirs into slow, irritated consciousness, one thought above all else intrudes into what, for want of an argument, shall be called its living mind.
How dare they?
How dare they?!CHAPTER 4
Friendship Is Precious
It began as a Facebook group.
The name of the group was:
Weird Shit Keeps Happening To Me And I Don't Know Why But I Figure I Probably Need Help
As soon as he'd been granted admin privileges, Rhys had gone about changing that name, and the group had become known as: Weird Shit Keeps Happening. However, there were still too many people requesting permission to join who were simply troubled teenagers, or adults coming out of difficult relationships, or old folk who'd forgotten to take their medicine, and, of course, the ubiquitous spammers.
WEIRD SHIT HAPPENING TO YOU?? FOR ONLY $55 UNICURE WILL FIX IT!
Sharon had said, "Yeah, but isn't it kinda indiscreet to just put up a sign, on the internet, proclaiming 'magic is real and here we are'? Only I've seen movies, and usually what happens next is these government guys in black suits and glasses turn up and start asking you questions like 'Have you now or have you ever been an agent for the Soviet government?' and before you know it, there's medical experimentation going on, and I can't be having that."
Sharon Li, it turned out, couldn't be having a lot of things.
"Well, we can make it only open to friends of friends," suggested Rhys carefully. "And we could message any applicants first, just to make sure that they understand what they're getting into. And Facebook isn't the only way, of course; I mean, there are other tools on the internet for social networking, especially if the network contains two vampires, five witches, three necromancers and a troll, see?"
Sharon still didn't look happy. "But this is daft!" she exclaimed. "If every secret society the world over had an internet page, it'd be the death of conspiracy theories and late-night movies on Channel Five!"
"But ... we're not a secret society, are we? Aren't we open to everyone who has a problem with their mystic nature?"
Sharon considered. Rhys had always admired the way in which Sharon Li considered, her entire face drawn together and her body stiff as if to declare that, while the world might be passing her by, nothing was more important than getting this thing right. It was an attitude she had extended most of her life, from learning the skills of a shaman, seer of the truth, knower of the path, wanderer of the misty way and so on and so forth, through to getting her five fruit and veg a day and organising the once monthly pub quiz night for members of the society.
"Okay," she said at last. "Just call the damn thing Magicals Anonymous."
So he had.
Few people could have been more surprised than Rhys was himself when offered the job of IT manager for Magicals Anonymous. Then again, he'd quickly discovered that being an IT manager in an office of two–himself and Sharon–was in fact a polite way of expressing the notion of universal dogsbody, administrative minion, sometime sort-of-secretary and, above all else, regular purveyor of cups of tea to all who came through the door. Within days he'd raised this last skill to a high art form, and could now prepare the perfect cup of tea for goblins, sidhes, magus and tuatha de danaan, although his first attempt at providing tea for the danaan had nearly resulted in a diplomatic incident when he put in two lumps of sugar rather than one. The tuatha de danaan, it turned out, took these things seriously.
If Rhys minded that his job had, in fact, little to do with computers, he didn't show it. His last job had been heavily to do with computers, but had ended abruptly when it transpired that the computers in question were owned by a wendigo and his soul-enslaving committee of bankers: a termination process including no fewer than two trips to hospital and the destruction of a significant part of Tooting High Street. At heart, he concluded, he'd been a software man anyway, rather than a hardware kinda guy.
"But why hire me?" he'd asked Sharon, in a rare moment of boldness.
Sharon Li had looked up from her desk, with its magnificent collection of multicoloured highlighters, colour-coordinated folders and, stashed secretly in the lowest drawer, a book entitled Management for Beginners. "Well," she said, "I figure I was hired to do this gig, not because I've got office experience or know anything about local government, which is what, I guess, we are, in a kinda social services way, but because I can walk through walls, and the souls of the city whisper their secrets to me from beneath the stones of the streets. So, when I was asked to find someone to work with me, I guess I just figured I shouldn't get anyone who'd show me up too badly."
Two weeks later, Rhys still wasn't sure if this was a good thing or a bad.
The office of Magicals Anonymous was on the ground floor of a polite Georgian terrace, conveniently sited, Rhys couldn't help but feel, next to a walk-in medical, in one of the terraced streets that criss-crossed behind Coram's Fields. Little Lion Street was presumably named after an incident hundreds of years ago which concerned something little and almost certainly involved a street but, Rhys felt, had in no way included a lion. Not quite Islington but definitely not Holborn, it was in an area defined by the superb transport links making great efforts to avoid it. Since the former family homes lining these wide, tree-shadowed byways were too large, impressive and old to be affordable as somewhere to live, dozens of little offices and firms had sprung up within them. Magicals Anonymous sat on the ground floor across the hall from where five ladies of a certain age and one male youth of infinite despondency published little books on gardening, cooking and healthy living, RRP £1.99 from all good organic food shops. One floor up, and a solicitor who spoke in the brisk tones of the contracts she perused held meetings behind a closed black door; on the other side of the landing from her, three young men, with their sleeves rolled up to demonstrate masculinity where no other clues were available, struggled to develop the Perfect App for the modern age, and bickered about operating systems and mobile phones.
If anyone asked Rhys what Magicals Anonymous did, he told them it was a magicians' party service. Which, he realised, was unfortunate, as he had already received three letters asking if they did children's birthdays, and one enquiring about weddings.
"I'm not sure how the kids would react to seeing Gretel," Sharon had said. "Mind you ... seven-foot trolls probably are fascinating when you're five, and I'm sure she'd like making the cake."
Despite working in what she dubbed "local government", Sharon had made few concessions to the job in terms of personal appearance. For sure, on the first day she'd come into work in her mother's oversized and mismatched trouser suit. But next day she'd gone right back to what she usually wore: tatty blue jeans, purple ankle-boots, bright orange tank top and, if she was feeling racy, a badge purloined from the vast collection pinned to the side of her battered green bag, proclaiming–Ask Me Anything, I'm A Shaman. With her straight black hair dyed bright blue at the front, and her almond skin polished to a well-fed glow, Sharon exuded the brightness of a firefly, the confidence of a double-decker bus, the optimism of a hedgehog and the tact of a small thermonuclear missile. However, aware perhaps that her CV mightn't be ideal for a guidance counsellor to the polymorphically unstable and mystically inclined, she had embraced a do- it-yourself approach to management that, for almost every five minutes of toil, generated nearly ten minutes of memos.
"It's important!" she'd exclaimed. "Apparently, when you're in management and have a position of care in the community, you have to have rigorous paperwork in order to reduce future liability. What would happen if some wannabe demigod comes walking in here complaining about feelings of inadequacy and, instead of saying, 'hey, you're a wannabe demigod, would you like a cuppa tea and a chat?' we give him a biscuit and tell him to get over it? The feelings of inadequacy will grow, with a sense of loneliness and confusion as he staggers through this uncaring mortal world, and, finally, explosions! Death! Fire! Destruction! Armageddon upon the earth! And when that comes, we, as responsible members of local government, have to make sure we documented our actions!"
"But ... Ms Li ... don't we answer to the office of the Midnight Mayor?"
"And isn't the Midnight Mayor ... I mean, doesn't he have this thing about how all paperwork is, pardon my language, Ms Li, pestilential putrefaction designed to confound the real work of society in a quagmire of bullshit?"
"What is a quagmire?"
"I'm not sure, Ms Li, that's just what I heard he said."
"Can a quagmire be made of bullshit?"
Rhys managed, just, to clamp down on his response. Well, Ms Li, you are the shaman in this room, the one who is the knower of truth, and I'm just a humble web-designing druid; surely you should know? Its utterance would have made no one happy.CHAPTER 5
Through Education, Enlightenment
By day, community support officer for the magically inclined. It wasn't the job description Sharon had in mind when she left school. But then again, when she'd left school, hairdresser had seemed like a challenging prospect.
And by night ...?
"You gotta let 'em get used to you! You're being thicko!"
Sharon considered this proposition. At three foot nothing, the author of this idea had as many hairs on his head as inches to his stature, but made up for this loss with a truly astonishing growth of nasal and, she suspected, navel hair, in whose thick fibres viscous and largely unimaginable fluids clung with all too solid reality. Dressed in a faded green hoodie which proclaimed Skate Or Die, Sammy the Elbow–sage, seer, scholar, goblin and, as he frequently liked to point out, second greatest shaman the world had ever seen–had a remarkably black and white view of the world for one whose understanding of the multifaceted layers of reality went so deep. Things were either "okay all things considered" or they were, more often, "crap, innit?"
How she had wound up with a goblin as her teacher, she still wasn't sure. But he seemed the only thing going and, while Ofsted might not have approved of his methods, simply being there counted for something. Most of the time.
They stood, the goblin and his apprentice, in that grey world where reality falls away and all things that people choose not to perceive become visible at last. It was the invisible city, where the beggars dwelt, just out of sight, and where the shadows turned their heads to watch passers-by; a place where truths were written in the stones themselves, and the houses swayed with the weight of stories swimming against their darkened windows. Reality swept by, and occasionally through, the two shamans; great buses of lost faces, their wheels burning black rubber into the tarmac; taxis with only the yellow "for hire" sign blazing through the greyness like a dragon's eye; half-lost figures moving down the street, over ground sticky with embedded chewing gum and the rubbed-off soles of a thousand, thousand steps which had gone before, their pasts written in their footsteps, whispers of things which had gone before and which might, perhaps, be yet to come. It was easy to grow distracted in this place, to let the eye wander through glimpses of,
the door that slammed in the night as the woman stormed away, I hate you, I hate you, never coming back, to return tomorrow cold and damp safety glass on the pavement as two kids, him thirteen, her twelve, smashed the window, first ever robbery, car radio far too well embedded for them to pull it out
police caught them two days later, a reprimand; don't ever do that again, smash again in the dark two days later, this time they stole a map, so they could say they'd stolen something
roar of the garbage truck which mistakenly crushed an old lady's cat
slipping of tiles down the roof in foul weather
shoe thrown over the telephone line, the man vanished beneath soft earth breaking beneath the city streets
smell of ...
"Oi! Focus, soggy-brains!"
A sharp rap on Sharon's shins snapped her back to attention. With his diminutive height, there were only so many parts of Sharon's body which lent themselves to easy abuse on the part of her goblin teacher; over the months in which she'd been studying, her shins had taken a lot of punishment.
Excerpted from The Glass God by Kate Griffin. Copyright © 2013 Kate Griffin. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
This is the second in the Magicals Anonymous series, and again, Griffin is the Source!
Her quirky, yet endearing and interesting, writing style is as solid as ever, and the twists and turns of the plot were executed wonderfully. Griffin's version of her urban fantasy is possibly one of my most favorite. If you haven't read the other books in her series, you can still clue in easily enough, without it being incessant for those of us who read the first.
This is not for everyone, but I still suggest you give a go and dive on in before making any solid judgements. Don't judge a book by the oddness in which is may appear!
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Posted August 22, 2013