The Neon Court by Kate Griffin. ★★★1/2
The Neon Court is the third book in Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift series, which starts with A Madness of Angels. In my review of the second book, The Midnight Mayor, I mentioned that I was particularly interested in seeing where Oda’s character would go. Which, apparently, is into the grave in the first chapter of The Neon Court in order to create a plot. I am so frustrated by this. Then again, this series has a history of fridging female characters, so maybe I should have known what I was getting myself in for.
From the back blurb: “He has been summoned abruptly, body and soul, to a burning tower and to the dead body of Oda, warrior of The Order and known associate of Swift. There’s a hole in her heart and the symbol of the Midnight Mayor drawn in her own blood. Except, she is still walking and talking and has a nasty habit of saying ‘we’ when she means ‘I.'”
The events of the burning tower precipitate a war between two groups, the Neon Court and the Tribe, and as Midnight Mayer, Matthew Swift is caught in the middle.
My main problem with this book is that it’s the third in the series and Matthew is still isolated. Besides Matthew/Angels, there are practically no reoccurring characters. With the death of Oda, the only characters alive from the first book are Sinclair and Charles, which hits on another point. Is it particuarly female characters who die? Now we’ve had Dana, Vera, Oda, as well as another dead woman that I won’t spoil. Oda in particular was an interesting developed character who felt like she was going to get an actual arc. Instead she’s disposed of in short order to create a plot. Her role as “female sidekick” is replaced by Penny, Matthew’s new apprentice. I was actually really excited about this installment because I thought we’d get to see two important black female characters. Now I wonder if Penny was just created to replace Oda, because, you know, the two are totally interchangeable.
Besides all the issues it has with female characters (and race?), the constant character deaths just make me unwilling to care about anyone. Plus, it doesn’t make for a very interesting series where the protagonist doesn’t have established characters to interact with. I feel like a sequel needs to build on the world or characters in some way. The Neon Court really didn’t.
On the positive side, I still like Griffin’s writing style and how she really bends the rules of grammar in places for effect. Matthew and the angels remain fascinating. Griffin continues to delight with her inventive London based magic system – there’s a great scene where Matthew does a “You shall not pass!” spell calling upon the powers of a red cross light.
Overall, I’m not quite satisfied with this installment, enough so that it’s made me debate whether or not to finish the series. Besides, I heard there was more fridging in the next book, and I don’t know if I feel up to dealing with it.