Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge

This is a short book (335 pp) which I picked up for free at the Connotations Book Mooch in Oct. It says something that I started reading it that weekend and only finished it a week or so ago.

I was drawn to the Black London setting (a London where magic takes place both in and out of a sort of parallel-ish dimension) rather than the actual premise (Teen heroine, Pete, meets older bad boy mage, Jack, who is seemingly killed in front of her. Pete grows up to be a policewoman and is investigating the case of a missing girl when she comes face to face with Jack, who is most definitely not dead.)

Alas I should’ve spent more time reading the inside notes because the book is written by an American chick living in Seattle who has based her novel in London and her hero is a bad boy from Manchester.

Though there is a relatively decent plot buried somewhere in the book it’s overshadowed by (a) two protagonists who seem to spend all their time shouting and snarking at each other as if they were still teens (b) stupid, stupid mistakes on the Britpicking front (c) cringe inducing dialogue.

Examples of the Britpicking which set my teeth on edge? Having the anti-hero go ito a pub and ask for “a pint of bitters” because seriously, if the bar staff are having an off day you will NOT get a pint of ale but something far less palatable. After Jack shoves through the gate onto the Tube Pete “swipes her Oyster card twice”. Yeah right – that’ll work. And making Pete’s address: 221 Croydon Place, #32, London – this is not how our addresses work!

The dialogue reads like badly written fanfic.

One of the reviewers on Amazon had this to say about it: “the general effect is of something translated from another tongue by someone to whom UK English is a second language – grammatically accurate but the vocabulary use is just a bit off.”

Here’s a hint – there’s a style to cursing in the UK and that doesn’t mean you scatter “bloody’s”, “bugger’s” and a number of “sod’s” and “git’s” every few words, cross your fingers and hope for the best. If the bad boy mage is a bit of a lad from Manchester then he’ll be dropping the f-bomb all over the place not sounding like a weird 50s fop or some pre-teen who hasn’t yet learned how to cuss properly. Also adding “all” to “bugger” does not emphasise, but rather completely changes, the meaning.

I also think she must have had a product placement deal with whatever company makes Parliament cigarettes. We’re introduced to Jack and told he smokes Parliaments (not a brand I would associate with a UK smoker) and then every time it’s all “Pete takes Jack’s Parliament”, “Jack cups his hand and lights a Parliament” until it becomes teeth grindingly intrusive.

To any Brit reader, or American who has spent time in the UK, the dialogue is just going to sound wrong. The colloquialisms are off, there’s precious little difference in style between Jack and Pete’s speech patterns and Jack particularly, ends up sounding like a cross between Spike and Sid Vicious with the cod Britpseak.

As a plot point too – Pete is supposed to be a detective yet spends the entire novel bunking off work running rounds London with a junkie ex-mage barely ever calling in. I doubt if the Met bosses give their staff quite as much freedom as Pete seems to have.

Also if you want me to invest in Pete as a serious female heroine it would help if on meeting wasted junkie Jack that she didn’t revert to talking and acting like a starry eyed teen experiencing her first crush.

So um…that’d be a Thumbs Down for Kittredge and Street Magic (which was the first in the Black London series). I won’t be reading the rest.

To cleanse my palette I’ve dived back into the James Barclay Raven books. I picked up his two trilogies Chronicles of the Raven and Legends of the Raven at Snowdon Books (fab 2nd hand bookshop in Bangor) some time ago but have kept getting distracted from reading them.

The guy knows how to write high fantasy. There are warriors and mages and danger from the East, and his (well drawn, well rounded) characters actually experience growth as the books progress. I’ve already polished off Dawnthief (Book 1 in Chronicles of the Raven) and am halfway through Noonshade. Apparently he’s written a 4th book in the Legends series which I must get (damn it I want it in a matching cover to the series I have)!

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5 Responses to Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge

  1. trixfred30 says:

    Pint of bitters – I love that. Maybe they should try a half of stouts.

    • All I could think was when if I;d been bar staffing and had a bad day and someone asked me for a pint of bitters? Well, Ok then, 1 pint of Angostura bitters coming up. See how you like that!

  2. There’s nothing more annoying than a novel where you really want to love it from the beginning but then slowly realise that it’s just not possible.

    • Jo says:

      Indeed!

      I’ve also just noticed that somehow I’m directing traffic to this page (which was a test page) rather than my two main blogs – the gardening one (southlondongardening.wordpress.com) and the entertainment one (nightsinlondon.wordpress.com). *sigh* I do not find WordPress as intuitive as LJ or DW – and I need to work out how to flag up those other two blogs and hide or delete this page.

      Whoops?!

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