Griffin, Kate -- Stray Souls (Magicals Anonymous, 1)

This begins a new series in the same magical-London setting as the Midnight Mayor books. We have a new central character: Sharon Li, failing barista and (suddenly) urban shaman. Attempting to deal with unexpected at-one-ness with the entire city and an occasional tendency to walk through walls, Sharon does what anyone would do: she starts a Facebook group for people with magical problems.

This new series is a distinct shift in tone and story-shape. The Matthew Swift books were fire, terror, wild magic, and Matthew Swift generally getting the crap kicked out of him -- plus an undercurrent of humor. "Magicals Anonymous" has the humor on top. It is distinctly Douglas Adams, in fact: hapless, flustered people attempting to make sense of their lives. A hypochondriac vampire, a druid with hay fever, an extremely polite banshee, and a foodie troll walk into a support group meeting, right?

(But the fire and wild magic are still there, underneath. This author does know when to pass over the snarky comeback and scare you.)

I would say this introductory book takes a little too long to get started. Adams introduced Arthur Dent as a hapless prole, but a prole who lies right down in front of a bulldozer -- you start cheering for him immediately. Sharon Li spends quite a while stammering, second-guessing, trying to get enough biscuits for the meetings, and reading terrible self-help books. I was worried that she would be a nonentity, swamped by the colorful crowd around her. Nah. Eventually she gets fed up, starts shouting at people, and the narrative pace goes zoom like a rocket.

(The colorful crowd includes Matthew Swift, finally seen from the outside. Unsurprisingly, he's both scary as hell and a minor pain in the butt. He doesn't steal the show, which is the important thing.)

There is a crisis, of course. It is a crisis beyond the remit of the Midnight Mayor -- why? Because story; this isn't the sort of logical worldbuilding where you draw charts. Go read Sanderson for that. This is a newcomer shaman and her tribe, I mean Facebook group, flung in at the way-too-deep end and coping because they're basically decent people who refuse to give in. Did I say Douglas Adams? I meant Terry Pratchett, of course, my mistake. Adams was a cynical bastard. Pratchett loves people. That's this book.

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