BooksOfTheMoon

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.

Spoiler
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

The October Man (Rivers of London, #7.5)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 3 stars

This novella is a bit more substantial than The Furthest Station and is the first mainstream work that moves away from the PoV of Peter Grant. Looking at the GR series for the Rivers of London I did notice the name of Tobias Winter though, so it turns out that this wasn’t his appearance in the series, even if the previous one was a flash fiction piece on Aaronovitch’s blog summarising the lead up to Tobias becoming a practitioner.

In this novella, Tobias is well on that journey, and is sent to investigate the potentially magical death of a man in the city of Trier. His local liaison is Vanessa Sommer (and more than one person cracks a joke at the expense of Winter and Sommer) who turns out to be competent, enthusiastic and ambitious.

Although we’re not in London any more, the local river goddess does make an appearance and Tobias is a decent enough Peter Grant substitute. I do miss the familiar crowd though. I liked both Tobias and Vanessa, but the former doesn’t really have a distinct narrative voice for me, and it did feel like Aaronovitch spent a long time covering basics that readers would really be familiar with by now, after seven novels, six graphic novels and a handful of short stories. Although, to be fair, it is interesting to see the German perspective on things that we think we’re familiar with.

That’s really the most interesting thing about this story, really: seeing familiar things from a different perspective and seeing how another culture deals with magic. Towards the end of The Hanging Tree Peter Grant muses on establishing communications with other national magical police forces. It’s clear from Tobias that this hasn’t happened yet (although Tobias keeps tabs on Peter, he doesn’t think that Peter knows about him) and that would make for an interesting story.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473228665
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2019

Rivers of London Volume 6: Water Weed

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 3 stars

I don’t think that I’ve got much comment to make on the 6th Rivers of London graphic novel. This one concerns a cannabis operation, one that has worrying vestigia attached to the final product. It’s practically a Peter one-hander; Nightingale is in some scenes, but doesn’t do much, Beverley and her two younger sisters get a bit more screen time, but poor Molly gets practically nothing, and Guleed doesn’t appear at all.

The art is consistent, and has been since the start of the graphic novel series. This is the first one that I’ve seen with Aaronovitch credited only as ‘creator’ while Andrew Cartmel is the sole writer. I don’t think it made a difference, I always find Peter’s narrative voice somewhat muted in the graphic novels anyway.

So a fun, if short, read that’s enjoyable but doesn’t offer any more insight into the characters.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785865459
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2018

Lies Sleeping (Peter Grant, #7)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, has been unmasked and is on the run, with the full force of the Metropolitan Police bearing down on him. But he still dreams big and Peter Grant and the team have to bring him down before his plans, somehow involving the malevolent spirit Mr Punch, come to fruition.

Blimey, I missed Peter Grant! I know I always go on in my reviews of the comics about how much I miss Peter’s narrative voice, but I’d forgotten just how much I’d missed it until I got a full length novel again. And what a novel. The momentum behind the Faceless Man plot has been building for some time, and this is the payoff. Aaronovitch balances action and character very well as we get reacquainted with old friends (Nightingale, Guleed, Molly all present and correct) as well as new ones. Abigail is getting more screen time as she’s becoming the Folly’s resident archivist and librarian. Peter and Nightingale are keeping her out of the front line for now, but it’s only a matter of time before she gets in over her head (and I can’t wait to see how she gets herself out of it!).

There’s a good depth of research that’s gone into this, mixing up Saxon, Roman and ancient British history and myth and pulling them together into a cohesive story that’s a lot of fun to read. The various relationships all rub along nicely. Nightingale and Peter; Peter and Beverly; and, of course, Peter and Lesley. Their frenemy relationship has felt like the core of the books for some time now and this volume just adds more depth and complexity. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

My edition also came with the short story Favourite Uncle at the end. This is a fun little story, narrated by Abigail, set at Christmas about some of those activities on the side that she doesn’t tell Peter and Nightingale about.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473207813
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2018

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