‘Stray Souls’ is urban fantasy with a sprinkling of light social satire. I haven’t read anything else by Kate Griffin, but I understand this to be a spin-off from the Matthew Swift books, and he makes a couple of cameo appearances. I have read “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August”, which is written by the same author under a different name (Claire North), and which is excellent and highly recommended.
In style and atmosphere, “Stray Souls” is comparable to the works of Neil Gaiman or Ben Aaronovitch. As such, I have to say it didn’t feel to me as if it was doing anything particularly new, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The characters were gently amusing, and a scan of ‘Goodreads’ tells me that there is enough variety for readers to choose their own favourites, which is definitely a good thing. I found it difficult to engage very deeply with any of them, although I was rooting heavily for Rhys by the end. Well-meaning and fundamentally a bit rubbish – I’m sorry, it’s a weakness.
The writing style is more experimental, and didn’t entirely work for me. There are a lot of characters, all introduced through little first-person vignettes interspersed throughout the book, and my brain struggled to latch on to any of them properly before we’d moved on. This made the narrative voice quite jumpy, and I didn’t manage to sink into the story until at least half-way through.
Once I did, though, it was a fun ride. There was a satisfying arc, with some lovely twists, and a proper surge of heart-swelling when it all came together and everyone exercised their unique strengths to achieve Great Things.
I’m not sure I am the target audience for this book, but I did enjoy it. I suspect that I would have enjoyed it more if I had been familiar with the Matthew Swift series and their world-building, and it was interesting enough that I will seek them out. As it was, this read oddly like a first novel by a promising new author who hasn’t quite hit their stride. I will award it four and a half stars, to be taken under advisement.