Orbit, p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Laurel Sills
Sharon Li runs a self-help group for the magically confused. She suddenly finds herself in an awkward ‘you are the chosen one’ pickle, complete with rather unhelpfully vague hints at how she is to achieve the vanquishing of the powers of darkness.
Here follows a classic ‘Evil is coming and you’re the only one who can stop it’ scenario. What’s a bit different about this though, is that your not so classic foul-mouthed screw up with a penchant for self-help books is the only thing standing between you and said ‘Evil’. Sharon – our heroine – does not exactly feel on top of things. She is not, perhaps, who you would choose to have the fate of London resting in her hands. But that’s what makes it a little bit more interesting. I think I might have had quite enough of your standard strong silent types, thank you very much, and Sharon is anything but.
Sharon is a dirty-mouthed, scatter brained twenty-something who can’t hold down a job, has no control over her life and quite frankly, as far as saving the city goes, has no bloody clue what she is doing. Guided by her bizarre spiritual reflection of her hidden subconscious, she basically falls haphazardly into the path of destruction.
Stray Souls is undoubtedly firmly seated in urban fantasy. In fact, the narrative is so interlinked with the city, that London practically becomes a supporting character, featuring perhaps even more strongly than Sharon herself. Whilst the detailed description offers a wonderfully insider view of London and all its little nooks and crannies, it did feel a tad excessive at times, causing the pace to drag a little. Saying that, I did enjoy the strong – often cinematic – sense of place Griffin creates.
Oh, and did I say Sharon was dirty-mouthed? Well, expect the same and more from the supporting cast, a varied congregation of goblins, druids, vampires, angels and banshees. I did feel as though the swearing got so excessive at times that it lost some of the emphasis I like a good ‘F’ word to portray, but it was clearly a stylistic choice. I think Griffin is aiming towards something nearing natural speech, with all the ‘uhs,’ ‘ums,’ ‘ers,’ and ‘likes’ that writers often choose to leave out in favour of flow and readability. Whether or not you appreciate this is clearly down to individual taste. Although I found it a little difficult at first, I soon got used to it, and felt it added to the comedy of the book.
Because this book is funny. Harking from the Joss Whedon school of comedy, with neurotic hygiene-obsessed vampires working alongside fine cuisine appreciating trolls.
Whilst Stray Souls might not move you or change your outlook on life, it is going to do everything in its power to entertain you.