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A Madness of Angels

(Matthew Swift #1)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  7,496 ratings  ·  753 reviews
For Matthew Swift, today is not like any other day. It is the day on which he returns to life.
Two years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home.
Except that it's no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that
Hardcover, 458 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Orbit
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Shannon I agree; Neverwhere, Mievelle, little long, slow at times, mildly hard to read, but ultimately one of the best books I have ever read. The style, and …moreI agree; Neverwhere, Mievelle, little long, slow at times, mildly hard to read, but ultimately one of the best books I have ever read. The style, and the feel are like nothing I have ever experienced in a book before. (less)

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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Sometimes an author captures my imagination, and as long as they fail to become blazingly incompetent, I’m along for the ride. So it was with A Madness of Angels.

Matthew Swift wakes up from death, lost, confused, unaware its been two years since he died, as for him it feels like moments ago. The terrible and fascinating hook to his story is that as a sorcerer, he was dialing the phone as he died–and the phone lines are the home of the electric blue angels, the bits and pieces of humanity spun ou
Dec 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
Hands down, one of the most God awful books I've ever read. Ever.
The edition I read had 458 pages. It could have easily been whittled down to 150. Really. The descriptions of mundane things went on and on and on forever! I feel like this book has sucked years off of my life. Ok, maybe a couple of weeks. Every night I kept trying to finish it, and every night I fell asleep after about 15 minutes. I honestly think I deserve some kind of a medal for reading all of it. To be perfectly honest, I had
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, and it has some splendid ideas. Ultimately, however, two things about it annoyed me so much I can't give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. I do see how this can be a matter of taste, and perfectly respectable readers could give this five stars. Bet here are my beefs:

Length and Plot. The overall structure of the book is that our protagonist, newly-resurrected urban sorcerer Matthew Swift has to destroy a chief bad guy (gamers will recognize him as a boss) who has rings
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of urban fantasy
Recommended to carol. by: Carly
Notes from a third read:

Matthew Swift is back, but no one is exactly sure that he is him. He visits the shop of a prophet who once foretold his death:

"'You want to tell me that you're Matthew Swift.'
'Is this a bad thing?'
'You are a dead man, Matthew Swift.'
'You must have customers flocking to hear your predictions.'
'It was a statement of fact, of history.'
'It pays for prophets to be cryptic, particularly in this litigious age,' I wheezed."

The sorcerer Matthew Swift was killed--or at least disapp
May 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really love this book. The premise is just so different. I love the way magic works, and what it is to be a Sorcerer. The Bikers were really interesting as well. I love the complicated mess that is Matthew Swift, and the Electric Blue Angels. I love how there is no real, clear lines between the two of them, and how often they merge and blend. The plot is well done, and tightly paced. The secondary characters are a varied bunch, and form an integral part of the story rather than just being an a ...more

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my FINISHING THE SERIES! list.

I loves me a good series! But I'm terrible for starting a new series before finishing my last - so this reading list is all about trying to close out those series I've got on the go.

My wife and I found our way to A Madn

This book is interesting and has tasty bits like folklore, a very typical example of UF, interesting character interaction, a little bit of humor and fighting scenes. It could have worked and I confess, there were times when I enjoyed reading this book, but the whole picture lacked a sharp hook enough to hook me entirely.
The beginning was quite good, but after30 pages I got tired of detailed sentences: I did this, then I did that, I went there, then there. Oh those wanderings and memories! The
N.K. Jemisin
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to N.K. by: Devi Pillai
Beautifully-written, snarkily fun, deliciously literary urban fantasy. Can't wait for the next book.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Cas from Supernatural, Hellblazer, NightWatch
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: N.K. Jemisin
Matthew Swift wakes up on the floor of his apartment--two years after he was brutally murdered. Now he has no money, no clothes, and an otherworldly presence in his head. Luckily, Matthew Swift is not your typical Londoner--he is an urban sorcerer, and he has a few tricks up his sleeves...
I loved loved LOVED the magic systems in this book. This book is one of the few with thoughtful, exciting, non-traditional magic--others that spring to mind are Hellblazer, Night Watch, Neverwhere, and the Book
Mike (the Paladin)
I really wanted to like this book more (especially since a friend here recommended it...sorry). It's not that it's a bad book. The idea is fairly original, based on the concept that "urban settings" cities etc. will or have developed their sort of "magic" (Charles de Lint for example has worked with similar ideas). The story is a pretty good one and the writing contains some very nice prose. Somehow the book just never appealed to me however. I couldn't get involved with him/them. I would recomm ...more
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved the depth of this book, the intensity of the language, and the inside view of London. The love came through, the magic was logical, and the disconnected order of the revelations was just plain perfect. It was so much what I'd been looking for that I didn't know until I finished reading it, and I'm delighted.

If you love urban fantasy in the truest, "love of the city" sense, this is a wonderful book for you. I'd recommend it to any Tim Powers fans without reservation, and also to fans of G
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is it. This is my absolute favorite urban fantasy. This is everything I want in this genre.

* * * * *

I love this book. Love everything about it from the strange magical London, to the city coming to life, to the many magical underground factions, to the blue electric angels, to Matthew Swift, especially Matthew Swift. One of the best urban fantasy hero there is.

The writing is superb and the action and pacing are relentless. The whole book is so well put together.

I need to reread this book.

Apr 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memory, fantasy
Two years ago, Matthew Swift died.

Our story begins when he comes back to life. A stranger has rented his apartment, he has no money or identification, and it turns out that all his friends have been horribly murdered in the interim.

A lot of this book is descriptive, and although this sometimes dragged from a readerly point of view it fit perfectly with the way magic is envisioned by Griffin. Also, her love of London was obvious, which gave appeal to what would otherwise have been tediously ext
Oct 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It ticked many of the right boxes for me and I loved many of the elements, a powerful sorcerer, Matthew Swift brought back from the dead, urban magic derived from the city itself, a struggle between good and evil. It was original and imaginative but, for me it was overly long and slow. The descriptive prose is wonderfully colourful but often it is too much and holds back the momentum of the plot.

I also felt the basic plot was a bit too linear. For Mat
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book contains one truly fantastic conceit: magician Matthew Swift is brought back from the dead, but he doesn't come back alone; he contains within him entities known as the Blue Electric Angels, and so parts of his story are narrated in the first person singular, I, and parts in the first person plural, we. I love the shifts between Matthew's perspective and that of the otherworldly Angels; I love how throughout the book they start to come together a bit, to merge. There is such a fascinat ...more
Jamie Collins
Jul 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy-urban
Putting this back on the shelf after about 100 pages. I feel like the writing is trying too hard to be literary, and is getting in the way of the story. I'm not opposed to the heavy use of similes - I like Michael Chabon and Neal Stephenson - but here they are distractingly bad.

"A noise like the slurping of thick cake mixture being slopped up from the bottom of the bowl."
"The one who spoke had a heavy, breathless voice like the deep snorts of a walrus."
"A quick slap like being hit with a thin sl
5 Stars

Holy crap am I wiped out after this amazing adventure. Let me catch my breath. A Madness of Angels sits now easily among my very favorite reads. This book, like the Angels portrayed within, was so many things to me. Sorcery and necromancy, love and death, mystery and revelation…Damn, I want more…

Books like this are so very rare..

I was entranced from the very first page all the way until the long coming end. It captivated my heart, my imagination and ensorcelled me through and through. I
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We be light, we be life, we be fire!
We sing electric flame, we rumble underground wind, we dance heaven!
Come be we and be free!"

This is quite a weird sort of book, probably a bit "marmite" in its style - you'll either love it or hate it. I loved it. I liked the fact that it was just so different to everything else I'd read. I also liked the fact that, having visited London a good many times, I was familiar with a lot of the areas that were being described in the story.

Lots of lovely twists on o
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tropey urban fantasy, in which a resurrected sorcerer Comes Back Strong seeking justice and revenge against his sorcerer Archnemesis Dad figure who is a magical London Gangster with Mortality Phobia. First book in a series.

My paperback, dead tree incarnation of the book was a doorstopper of 632 pages. It also contained an additional 20-pages of author interview and a next book teaser. It had a 2009 US copyright.

Kate Griffin is the nom de plume of Catherine Webb, a British author of young adult
Moira Russell
Ceci n'est pas une revue

This isn't going to be anything lengthy or profound; I just wanted to join my voice to the chorus saying how good this book is. Yes, it's probably about 100 pages too long, and the three drawn-out climactic confrontations with the Big Nasty could have been condensed into one, and the various betrayals and setups and alliances are explained very plainly (a number of times). The pacing is much slower than it could be, and I spent about the first twenty pages growling "If Ou
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves gloriously imaginative UF and won't mind the writing style.
Recommended to Carly by: A really gorgeous piece of fanart I ran across. (Link:
**edit 11/27/13
Two years after bleeding to death in an unfriendly alley, Matthew Swift wakes up in his old apartment, blinking open eyes that have transformed from muddy brown to electric blue. He-- and the entities who possess him--have only one thought in his/their mind: revenge against those who killed him and brought them back.

Madness of Angels captures the essence why I keep coming back to urban fantasy. When I read UF, I want to enter a world both alien and familiar, where the mundane to
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TL;DR ~4.5 stars, definitely makes the list for favorite urban fantasies, but an exhausting read.

So I believe I stumbled on A Madness of Angels while browsing carol's GR shelves looking for some good urban fantasy, and in that this is a definite success. A Madness of Angels is very much the sort of thing I want out of urban fantasy, and had I encountered it when it came out nearly ten years ago there would likely be much more UF on my shelves than you see now.

Griffin is an excellent writer, the
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Though I greatly enjoyed both books this author wrote under her other pseudonym of Claire North, the only two people whom I both follow and reviewed this had extremely opposite reactions to the book. An one star review of "Hands down, one of the most God awful books I've ever read. Ever," and a five star review (well, 4.5) from someone who has read it three times and "highly recommend(s)" it.

Needless to say, I was slightly nervous going in.

Plotwise, this is fairly simple. "You murdered me, so I
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s difficult to rate A Madness of Angels, since there were 2 star moments and 5 star moments riddled throughout the book. I settled somewhere in between and rounded up for my overall enjoyment.

Without getting into the thickness of plot, I’ll just say that this urban fantasy world was definitely a refreshing remix of familiar concepts, but with a very creative result. Among a world of very magical beings, Matt Swift is a sorcerer – a person able to sense magic in the artificia
Milda Page Runner
That's a tough one. Such a complicated book to rate. I seem to have loved it and hated it in an equal measure. I liked the story. It's not very original but it's good enough to keep you reading. I loved the main character and his switching personalities. It was a bit confusing at the start but once you've got the idea it was awesome. I thought the concept of urban sorcery was original and interesting.
Unfortunately the prose got in the way. It is no doubt inteligent, lyrical and lush but so over
Stephanie Swint
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is beautiful, complex, and mad...definitely mad. Matthew Swift, London sorcerer, is resurrected by the blue angels in the telephone lines. If you can commit to the madness this is worth the read. If you need something quick and linear in thought skip it. Full review to come...
colleen the convivial curmudgeon

This book. Oh, this book. It could've been awesome. It could've been a contender.


First things first. It's sort of John Constantine meets Neverwhere, and it has a lot of really cool ideas. In some ways, this is what an urban fantasy book should be, to me - one which isn't just contemporary fantasy in a city, but in which the magic is part of the city, and the city is a fundamental part of the story. While some of the ideas are familiar (Bag Lady really made me think of Mad Hettie, and i
Aug 31, 2010 rated it it was ok
I'll be honest: I couldn't finish this book. While the ideas behind how magic worked and the characters were interesting, I found this to be a plodding read. The descriptions while sometimes wonderful could also come precariously close to purple prose. I distinctly remember the author recycling the same detailed sensory descriptions and similes to describe two separate phone booths.
The details just never let up. It made the pacing of the book oftentimes awkward. The main character of Matthew Swi
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I just loved this book and loved the author's incredible imagination. I want to know much much more about the blue electric angels who lived in the telephone wires. And I really like Matthew as a character - he could actually be Harry Dresden's long lost cousin. There were many similarities between this book and any of the books in the Dresden Files but I did not mind at all. Thank goodness there is a book 2 and a book 3 ready for me to read.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I really wish I could write a 5 star review for this book. Honest to God, A Madness of Angels has one of the most creative, mind-blowing universes I've ever read - filled with monsters and magic that are unfamiliar yet instantly recognisable. Yet, its' length and dense writing made A Madness of Angels a difficult book to finish. Even though I loved it, I could only read 4-5 pages at a time - it took me 4 months to finish! There is just so much to absorb in every line, and there are many many man ...more
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Kate Griffin is the pen name under which Catherine Webb writes fantasy novels for adults. She also uses the pen name Claire North.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Other books in the series

Matthew Swift (4 books)
  • The Midnight Mayor (Matthew Swift, #2)
  • The Neon Court (Matthew Swift, #3)
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“We be light, we be life, we be fire! We sing electric flame, we rumble underground wind, we dance heaven! Come be we and be free!” 129 likes
“Offer me?" A shrill note of indignation entered her voice. "Young man, there are three things that make Britain great. The first is our inability at playing sports."
How does that make Britain great?"
"Despite the certainty of loss, we try anyway with the absolute conviction that this year will be the one, regardless of all evidence to the contrary!"
I raised my eyebrows, but that simply meant I could see my blood more clearly, so looked away and said nothing.
"The second," she went on, "is the BBC. It may be erratic, tabloid, under-funded and unreliable, but without the World Service, obscure Dickens adaptions, the Today Program and Doctor Who, I honestly believe that the cultural and communal capacity of this country would have declined to the level of the apeman, largely owing to the advent of the mobile phone!"
"Oh," I said, feeling that something was expected. "Oh" was enough.
"And lastly, we have the NHS!"
"This is an NHS service?" I asked incredulously.
"I didn't say that, I merely pointed out that the NHS makes Britain great. Now lie still.”
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