"London’s soul has gone missing. Lost? Kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows – but when Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she is immediately called upon to use her newfound powers of oneness with the City to rescue it from a slow but inevitable demise. The problem is, while everyone expects Sharon to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start." I don't usually start my reviews with the blurb from a book but Kate Griffin's wildly imaginative novel Stray Souls is so hard to describe that I'm afraid I had to fall back on the official description to get me started.
Sharon is a pretty brand-new shaman who is still struggling to understand just what that means so she reads self-help books and decides to form a support group called Magicals Anonymous. The group includes an almost Druid who couldn't pass his final test because of sneezing fits, a banshee named Sally who's discovered a love of modern art, a troll named Gretel who is somewhat of an outcast among her own kind because of her gourmet foodie interests, a hypochondriac vampire named Kevin and an assorted bunch of others. When Sharon is tasked by the Midnight Mayor with finding out what happened to Greydawn, the spirit/soul of London who protects the city from total disaster, Sharon is willing but unsure just how to go about such a thing. Her day job as a barrista certainly doesn't fulfill her (especially since her boss is a jerk) so saving the city sure seems like a good idea. But just what that entails will become scarier and more dangerous than Sharon could ever guess. And it's only with the help of her new tribe (every shaman needs one according to her goblin shaman trainer) of magical misfits that Sharon will perhaps be able to save the day and the city.
Sharon's supernaturally inhabited London is wonderfully drawn and Sharon's adventures run the gamut from laugh-out-loud funny to terrifying. Certainly given the set-up and colorful cast of characters this is one that could have careened out of the author's control. And yet, it never does. Griffin has a sure hand with her creations and never allows Sharon to be overshadowed - though she is ably supported. This book is an offshoot of Griffin's Midnight Mayor books but you don't have to have read them before reading this (I hadn't).