I’m mostly posting this to talk about what I’ve been reading lately, but I might take a cue from Bookshelves of Doom and post regular lists of related books. This time, the theme is books about magical London.
“Urban fantasy” is a pretty well-populated subgenre these days, but I particularly like books that play up the “urban” aspect and explore the magic of a particular city, and often the city in question is London. It probably has something to do with the general Britishness of so much popular fantasy. I have a much harder time thinking of books like this set in any other city. The best example that comes to mind is Delia Sherman’s Changeling, which is set in Magical New York. (How do I not know more Magical New York novels?) There’s Charles de Lint’s fictional Newford, but I didn’t really feel that those stories were about Newford, other than as a place where magical things could happen. Anyway, I’m not sure the kind of story I’m thinking of could be pulled off with an invented setting. I want urban fantasy that makes real places feel magical, where famous landmarks have genii loci and dragons live in the subway tunnels. How many tourists do you think have gone to King’s Cross Station and tried to get onto Platform 9 and 3/4?
So, in no particular order, some Magical London books:
1. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Yeah, this is the obvious pick, but I’m standing by it. There’s a very distinct line drawn between the mundane and magical sides of London, but it still feels as if London Below might really be lurking just out of sight.
2. Matthew Swift series and Magicals Anonymous series by Kate Griffin. These go together since they’re set in the same universe. This is what I’m reading right now, and what inspired me to post, because I’m so in love with Griffin’s version of “urban sorcery”, where a subway travelcard is a potent magical talisman and monsters made of garbage can be defeated by invoking the names of trash pickup services.
3. Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. Police procedural, but with wizard cops! I could go on about the wonderfully snarky narrator or the bickering anthropomorphic river gods, but if I didn’t have your attention at “wizard cops” then I’m not sure how else to convince you.
I know there are more Magical London novels–Un Lun Dun, for example. Any others? What about more examples from other cities–do the Harry Dresden books do Magical Chicago?