Winter’s Gifts (Rivers of London #9.5)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

This Rivers of London novella focuses on yet another part of Aaronovitch’s sprawling world. This time following Agent Kimberley Reynolds to get some insight into American magic. I think this worked better for me than What Abigail Did That Summer or The October Man because it feel like Aaronvitch has captured Kimberley’s voice better than that of Abigail or Tobias. Those felt too close to Peter Grant, while there’s some clear blue water between Peter and Kimberley’s narrative voices. She’s much more straight-laced, for wanted of a better term, without the snark or popular culture bombs that Peter constantly throws in.

The book doesn’t shy away from colonialism – in fact, the struggle between the incoming Europeans and the Native Americans is core to the story, as Kimberley tracks down a lead provided by a former FBI agent, one who’s gone missing as she turns up to investigate.

Quick to read, and an interesting new viewpoint into Aaronovitch’s world. I’ve never felt Kimberley to be particularly compelling up to now, but getting inside her head has definitely helped with that, and I look forward to any of her future appearances.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473224377
Publisher: Orion

Rivers Of London: Deadly Ever After (Graphic Novel)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 3 stars

This tenth (tenth!) graphic novel in Aaronovitch’s long-running Rivers of London series moves the focus to a couple of side-characters we’ve not seen much of until now – Mama Thames’ twin daughters, Chelsea and Olympia. They accidentally undo the enchantment on a mulberry tree which releases something that had been trapped for over a hundred years. And as the Folly are too busy with ghosts in the Underground, the twins have to investigate themselves.

I didn’t think this was one of the stronger instalments of this series. The twins are supposed to be insipid layabouts, but they acquit themselves quite well, I thought. And I never entirely believed Jeter’s transformation from loving father to evil fairy-tale master. We didn’t really spend enough time around the people affected by the fairy-tale magic to care about them either, and I didn’t think the Little Mermaid metaphor worked at all.

We only get cameos of Peter and Nightingale, although the excellent Abigail gets a slightly bigger role. The narrative knows what it’s talking about when it calls her a fan-favourite (along with the brilliant military foxes).

They’ve got the same artist as the last few volumes and I’ve definitely enjoyed that style, so was happy to see them back.

I’ll continue to read these, but I hope the next one goes back to the main cast. Or maybe a Molly special. Can’t ever have enough Molly.

Book details

ISBN: 9781787738591

Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London, #9)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb, I initially thought this was going to be a locked room murder – with a murder being perpetrated in the London Silver Vaults, but it turns out those (which are a real thing) have been opened up and turned into a shopping arcade, so the door was wide open. What we actually get is a thriller of a story as seven former prayer circle members, all with certain platinum rings, are being picked off, one by one. And yes, of course Peter makes the requisite Tolkien jokes.

Alongside the investigation, there are the elaborate preparations around Beverly’s pregnancy and the twins that she’s carrying. This gives us a different view into Lady Ty, now that she’s going to be an auntie. Less the terrifying political player and more, well, human. In a different way, that’s also true of DCI Seawoll, as the investigation takes the Met up to his home territory, around Manchester and we get to spend some time with him, and even his father.

Aaronovitch is slowly expanding his wizarding world. Peter is eager to deepen his US links, and expand them to the Continent as well, and re-establish the broken connections with the Sons of Weyland and bring their engineering expertise back into the Society of the Wise. Personally, that’s the sort of stuff that I’m more interested in. The crime-of-the-week in the book is there to drive these things, but isn’t as interesting to me as the world and the people in it. But after nine books, as many graphic novels and several novellas and short stories, I would imagine (and, indeed, hope) that I’ve come to care for the characters as people, not just mcguffin-solving machines.

The edition I read was the Waterstones one that has a short story included, Miroslav’s Fabulous Hand. This, along with a couple of references in the main book, shed new light on Nightingale’s chapter of Monday, Monday, the last graphic novel, and gives us the backstory to the pre-WW2 mission that Nightingale had been on when he was apprehended, as we see in that story.

Speaking of Nightingale, his announcement at the end made me sit up! It’ll be interesting to see what the implications of this are. I imagine it won’t stay secret for long, so I wonder how the demi-monde will react. And if it’ll have the effect on Peter that he wants.

So another really fun story in an evergreen series that I thoroughly enjoy. The one thing in the books that makes me uneasy is the black and white way that the Metropolitan Police is presented. They’re very much the Good Guys, swooping in to save the people of London from whatever befalls them. In the real world, the Met’s reputation is substantially more tarnished than that. Between corruption, institutional racism, servicing officers abusing and murdering women and the ongoing Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, it’s disappointing that there’s not much referencing any of these.

Notwithstanding that, which I can understand – these are fairly fluffy books, and I can see why Aaronovitch might want to keep real world ugliness out of them – it was a whole lot of fun, and I look forward to the next one.

Book details

ISBN: 9781399603096
Publisher: Orion
Year of publication: 2022

Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

This collection brings together a number of stories about Peter Grant and others with knowledge of magic in his world. These have mostly be reprinted elsewhere and I’ve read most of them before, although it’s still nice to have them all in one place.

The book is ordered by putting the Grant stories together at the front and the others at the back. I preferred to mix them up, so I tend to alternative a Peter story with a non-Peter story. Of the Peter stories, King of the Rats was a bit disappointing, as it stopped just as it was getting interesting. I’ve got a vague feeling that more of that story might have been covered in one of the novels, but after eight books and counting, I’m finding it hard to keep track. Much better was A Rare Book of Cunning Device, seeing Peter chasing something deep in the stacks of the British Library, and introducing the rather marvellous Elsie ‘Hatbox’ Winstanley. Aaronovitch teased a future short featuring her and resident Folly library Harold Postmartin, which I think would be an awful lot of fun.

Of the non-Peter stories, Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby was probably my favourite, dealing with the aftermath of Peter and Beverly’s, er, excursion in the river Lugg. It was one of the few stories that I hadn’t read before as well. There were three flash pieces amongst the non-Grant stories as well, which Aaronovitch calls ‘Moments’. I’ve recently discovered that these tend to be available online and you can find links to all of them on the Follypedia.

Not an essential volume, by any means, especially if you tend to get the Waterstones editions of the books, which usually have a short story at the end (most of the ones in this collection started off life as Wasterstones exclusives), but spending time in Peter Grant’s world is always fun and the stories do help round out the characters.

Book details

ISBN: 9781625675095
Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Year of publication: 2020

Monday, Monday

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

It took a while to figure out what this clever little graphic novel was doing, and once I did realise, I had to go back and re-read it as soon as I’d finished it. Each of its four chapters (issues) tells the story of the same day in the life of the Metropolitan Police, from four different points of view. First we see series regular DI Stephanopoulos’ day, as she takes over an active operation from an injured colleague, finding it not working as smoothly as it should, and worrying about corruption.

The second chapter is interesting because it not only has Nightingale’s perspective in the present, as he leads a short course for officers on detecting vestigia and when to call in the Folly, but we get flashbacks to his youth, both in his school days, and his service in the second world war. Which reminds me – we know that Nightingale fought in WW2, but this flashback suggests that his true youth was in the early part of the twentieth century and he may have had a hand in the Great War too, despite the best intentions of his headmaster. There’s also a lovely sequence to contrast this, as Nightingale looks after Peter’s new children during a childcare crisis – a side to him that we’ve not seen before.

The third chapter starts with Peter dealing with new parenthood (twins, no less!) and then shows how he fits into Stephanopoulos’ investigation. There’s a lovely little section near the start with Peter at home with the twins where he gets out a measuring tape and tries to analyse at what point they start to cry when separated from each other. It’s as pure Peter Grant as you can get and a lovely little aside that had me grinning to myself. The military foxes also make a return, as they are now providing protection for the twins from, amongst others, unauthorised personnel, ne’er do wells, intruders and, of course, cats.

The final chapter ties it all together, as it follows Abigail and Foxglove in their own little adventure, and discover how it intersects with what the others have been doing. While much of whole graphic novel is wordless, it’s much more evident in this last one, as it leans heavily on the art to tell the story, quite successfully, too.

It’s a nice storytelling idea and rewards re-reads. Random little asides and what had seemed to be artistic non sequiturs that make sense in context of what we find out later on as we integrate them into a fuller picture. And, of course, I’m always keen to find out more about Nightingale’s past.

The artist has changed again for this volume, bringing it more closely in style to the earlier work, which I enjoyed more, so this felt more familiar and comfortable to me than the last few volumes.

A fun story here, and one that ties into the wider mythos of Aaronovitch’s world. The comics are good, but, as always, I look forward to the next novel in the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781787736269
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2021

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 5 stars

Remembrance is one of my favourite Doctor Who stories thanks, in no small part, to this novelisation, which I read many years before I ever saw the TV serial. It was on the strength of the memory of this book that many years later, I started reading Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books, which are thoroughly enjoyable reads.

This novelisation manages to add extra depth to the story that couldn’t be conveyed on TV, and makes it feel more epic – especially the battle scene between the two Dalek factions. We also get flashbacks to Omega, Rassilon and The Other doing their work with the Hand of Omega back on Gallifrey, which makes it feel more epic. It also fleshes out Mike Smith and George Ratcliffe, and gives them back-stories tied to the War, and makes the Fascist connections that were implicit in the serial explicit. This is neatly compared to Ace, who grew up in the multicultural London of the 1980s.

Not exactly what I might have expected from a Doctor Who novelisation, but welcome nonetheless. A great novelisation of a cracking Doctor Who story.

Book details

ISBN: 9780426203377
Publisher: Target Books, Carol Publishing Corporation
Year of publication: 1990

What Abigail Did That Summer : A Rivers Of London Novella

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

It’s the summer holidays and Peter Grant’s cousin Abigail has been left unsupervised. She finds herself getting involved with a mysterious old house and a bunch of disappearing and reappearing kids. Oh, and the militarised talking foxes seem to have taken a liking to her.

I enjoyed this long-ish novella. Abigail has been around for a while now, as a secondary character, but this puts us properly in her head. Set at around the same time as Foxglove Summer (Peter is away chasing unicorns in the country), I must confess that it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the timeline between the novels, comics and novellas (thank goodness for the Follypedia) but this is before Abigail becomes a proper junior apprentice to Nightingale. It seems to be her first encounter with the foxes as well. Speaking of the foxes, I like them a lot. They seem to think they’re a spy unit of some kind, although we never find out (yet, at least), what their overall mission is. But for whatever reason, they take a shine to Abigail and hang out with her and help her locate the missing children.

One issue with the book is that I never entirely believed that the narrative voice was that of a thirteen year old girl, even a precocious one who’s well on her way to taking her Latin GCSE early. There was a lot of Peter’s snark, and quite a lot of his knowledge of architecture as well. There’s a few “yoof” slang thrown in, but I still don’t quite buy it.

That’s a fairly minor quibble though. This is a great fun novella, that deepens Abigail’s character, and gives her some secrets and leverage of her own (can’t wait to find out what comes of her contact with Simon’s mum). Nightingale is present, albeit as very much a background character, and the other recurring cast don’t appear at all. This is pretty much all about Abigail, although Simon is interesting, and Simon’s mum is terrifying.

This scratches my Rivers of London itch for the moment, but I’m very much looking forward to the next full novel.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473224346
Year of publication: 2021

Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Alongside the excellent pun in the title, this is probably one of the better recent Peter Grant graphic novels, as the Folly is called to investigate a drowned boy racer with a boot full of very unusual cargo. Once again, Peter finds himself entangled with the fey, reliant only on his wits to help him through.

Moreso than even usual, this graphic novel was Grant-heavy, with minimal appearances from Nightingale and Guleed (and none whatsoever from Molly, boo). There was an incident with Guleed that I think would have been interesting to expand upon, although with space restrictions, they made do with what they could, and the visual medium does help here, with facial expressions and body language.

The artist has changed again for this story. They’re good, and handle the fast action of the car racing well, but I still miss Lee Sullivan.

The story is very plot-heavy, with little character development, and possibly the most interesting snippet in that area comes right at the end, with some internal captions from Beverley musing on her relationship with Peter which is both sweet and kind of ominous.

Like the last volume, there’s some articles at the end discussing the historical background to some of the story elements, including street racing and fairy myth. These are interesting, but I’d have preferred it if the text were in straight columns rather than at an angle. It might look cool, but it does make it a bit harder to read.

All in all, a fun, standalone story. Not essential, but a good read for fans of Peter Grant and his world.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785865862

False Value (Rivers of London #8)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Following the dramatic events at the end of the last book, Peter is nominally still suspended, but with fatherhood impending, he needs a job, so he joins security for the Serious Cybernetics Corporation, a new startup by one of the less-flashy silicon valley tech bros. Peter settles down fairly quickly, but soon realises that there’s something strange, and possibly magical, going on up on the top floor of the building.

It’s odd seeing Peter outwith the support network of the Met, but he’s still got his informal network to rely on, and he’s now moved in with Beverley. The police are still very much involved, and Nightingale, Guleed et al make their appearances.

And, of course, it only lasts long enough to tell us that Peter’s currently working under cover.

As others have noted, there’s an awful lot of Hitchhikers’ references in this book, but while others found it irritating, it seems to me that it’s appropriately over the top for a silicon valley tech startup that’s wanting to appear to be “hip” and “cool” (for nerdy values of “hip” and “cool”).

This book finds Peter more aware of Beverley’s status as a goddess, and getting a bit worried by things that happen around her, and the actions that she feels she needs to take. Maksim, for example, until now, has mostly been played for humour, but Peter’s now worrying about free will and whether it’s ethical for Bev to put her influence over him, and others she comes into contact with. It’s not easy dating a deity, and it’ll be interesting to see where this goes in future volumes.

No Lesley May in this one, but the magical world has been expanded again, this time with more details of American magic, and especially the Librarians (no, not those Librarians). There’s also been some seeds planted for the future, and possibly a new nemesis coming up.

All in all, a worthy entry to the canon. But you can’t just drop in the suggestion that the London Underground possible has its own genius loci and then walk away like that. I’m outraged. Outraged, I tell you!

Book details

ISBN: 9781473229761

Rivers of London Volume 7: Action at a Distance

By Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Brian Williamson

Rating: 3 stars

A funeral is an occasion for Nightingale to suggest that Peter Grant do some reading in the Folly archives, and what he finds sheds a bit of light on his governor’s mysterious past. This is quite a slight story, but it’s nice to see a bit of what went on with the Folly in the years before Peter, when Nightingale was the only official wizard in England. This sheds little light on the time during the War, which is sort of the period that I’m most curious about, but a post-war event.

This story, set mostly in 1957, and touching on the Windscale fire that was the turning point of the British love affair with all things nuclear, is interesting and fun, but I’m sort of disappointed that Nightingale didn’t get to take on Fischer properly. We’ve seen magician to magician battles so rarely (the Faceless Man is about the only worthy opponent that we’ve seen in the books, and he couldn’t come close to touching Nightingale in a fair fight) that it felt like a missed opportunity.

The main artist of the series has changed with this volume, losing some of the distinctive “cartoon-iness” of the series. The replacement is decent and workmanlike and, no doubt, I’ll get used to it, but I do miss Lee Sullivan’s work.

So a fun story, all in all, but not essential, and not as much a delve into Nightingale’s psyche as I might have hoped for.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785865466
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2019

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