By Daniel Savage
Over the course of the series, it would be fair to say Swift has been through a lot; the first page of the first instalment (Madness of Angels) relates his resurrection two years after his extremely gruesome murder.
Since then, he has brought down a society of evil magicians, defeated the Death of Cities, and averted a war between two powerful, magical factions.
In addition, he has learnt to embrace the power of the Blue Electric Angels, the gods of the telephone wire now incarnated in his body, and been given the position of Midnight Mayor of London, much to his displeasure.
The Minority Council is less apocalyptic in scale than its predecessors, which is an immediate point in its favour. As excellent as the series undoubtedly is, there can only be so much world-saving before any reader starts to become bored. Here, the threat is much more local, not to mention personal.
The two plot strands – which inevitably intertwine – concern a new, magical drug hitting the streets, with particularly unpleasant side effects, and a monstrous creature attacking teenagers and draining their spirits to leave them emotionless shells.
On an interesting note, Griffin’s inspiration for this magical monster was an all too real invention, a buzzer that was deployed outside shops and produced noises only audible to teens, in a bid to drive them away.
Griffin writes well, the plot is engaging and rattles along at a brisk pace – I devoured the book in a couple of days, and loved every page of it – but really the plot and indeed characters are almost secondary.
Swift is not the most finely developed protagonist, although the lower key plot of this book does allow for some detail, and the background cast are borderline parodies, (the hyper-efficient personal assistant and the foul-mouthed apprentice), although again, Griffin slips in finer shading at appropriate and surprising moments.
The real joy of the series is the world in which it takes place, where London is arguably the main character. Magic in this universe is all about place, and as the world changes, so does magic.
This is a London where the graffiti on the walls is alive, where monsters crafted from litter and kebab grease roam the streets, where the best protective spell is reciting the rules and regulations on the back of your Oyster card, and where the traditional Medusa’s serpentine hair has been replaced with twisting fibre-optic cables.
True, a lot of the magic seen in the books is simply a fresh spin on making things explode, but that is excusable by the nature of the stories (and also by the fact that Griffin writes action rather well, excelling in this latest novel with a staged battle mid-book).
It isn’t perfect, of course; it is one thing to have recurring characters, but some of the supporting cast seem to have cropped up at more or less the same point to do more or less the exact same thing in each of the four books. You can almost guess what is going to happen by how far you are through the book.
In addition, Swift himself seems to have forgotten or simply ignored one of his more personal epiphanies from the previous instalment, apparently largely because remembering it might have rendered a good deal of The Minority Council redundant.
However, this is another immersive, highly enjoyable instalment of an excellent series. Strongly recommended.