BooksOfTheMoon

Rivers of London: Night Witch

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

In the second of Peter Grant’s visual outings, we see a kidnapping, the Russian mafia and the lengths a parent will go to to get their child back. The art here is, again, rather lovely. I find the style really suits the series, so top marks to Lee Sullivan. The story is fairly slight, once again, and readable in a quite short space of time. I found it didn’t hang together hugely well on first read, although a re-read did definitely help (and it’s short enough that you can read it a couple of times in as many hours). The graphic novel format does mean that we’re outside of Peter’s head for most of the time, which is a shame, as so much of the joy of the series for me comes from his narrative voice. But it does mean that when we do get a “Peter Grant moment”, it’s a real joy.

This one is set sometime before [book: The Hanging Tree], but probably after [book:Foxglove Summer]. Alas, DC Guleed, along with most of the regular cast, is missing from this volume, although we do get a brief scene with Dr Walid. I’ve come to really like Guleed over the last few books although a certain other former partner of Peter’s does make an appearance.

So, like I said, it’s slight, but a lot of fun. And the way the Russians manage to “persuade” Nightingale is clever.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785852930
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2016

The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant, #6)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 5 stars

Peter Grant is back in London and back on form. When Tyburn calls him up to call in a favour by keeping her daughter out of any fallout from a drug death, Peter is forced to encounter another alien species: the rich. Investigating the death, involving wealth, power and poor taste in furnishings Peter, along with his usual backup crew, and some new additions, expand the world of the river goddesses with flair, pizazz and the appropriate forms, to be filled out in triplicate.

I’d forgotten just how much I missed Peter’s narrative voice. He’s a brilliant narrator; the combination of sarcasm, intelligence and geekery makes him a joy to read. Much kudos to Aaronovitch for keeping that voice just right. After the slightly disappointing, rushed ending to [book: Foxglove Summer], I was glad to see better pacing here, with an ending that doesn’t make me feel cheated. Yes, the ongoing plot involving the Faceless Man is still ongoing; and yes we only get tantalising glimpses of wider British magic, involving Lady Helena, but the plot of this book is still tied up and the Faceless Man plot has moved on, with promises of more revelations to come. One of the few disappointments in the book, actually, is that now that the Faceless Man has been identified, he turns out to be just another common, or garden, kipper. Just an old racist in the Nigel Farage mould, dreaming of a time while Britannia ruled the waves.

I did find it difficult to keep track of the various rich teenagers and their Responsible Adults, although that might have been part of the point. Police work, as Peter keeps telling us, is mostly about banging on and on and getting right into the detail. Still, with the involvement of her daughter, we do get to see a different side to Lady Ty, and her last scene with Peter is actually quite touching, as she tries to do the Big Sister thing for Beverly.

The supporting cast are all present and correct, complete with extended cameo from Lesley May. Peter’s new partner, Sahra Guleed is an interesting character in her own right, and, unlike May, happily avoiding handling actual magic, although as the one who’s been involved more of the Weird Stuff than anyone else outside the Folly, she’s now the unofficial third in command and has had some nice character development of her own.

So Aaronovitch is back on form and this book was worth the wait. Still huge amounts of fun with brilliant characters, I’ve already ordered the next graphic novel to help tide me over until the next full novel.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575132559
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2016

The Home Crowd Advantage (Peter Grant, #1.5)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Nice wee short story set early in the Rivers of London sequence, during the London Olympics of 2012, this sees Peter having to deal with History and Conscience while Nightingale is away. As always, Peter’s distinctive narrative voice is a joy to read and it has the usual mix of modern policing and utter geekiness that I enjoy so much. This also widens the world a little bit, with some details of French magic and what happened to it.

Book details

Year of publication: 2014

Rivers of London: Body Work

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Peter Grant is back in this short aside from the main series. Appearing to take place sometime after Broken Homes this lovely graphic novel sees Peter having to deal with possessed cars. Joining Aaronovitch for writing duties is fellow Doctor Who scribe Andrew Cartmel (of Cartmel Masterplan fame). I’m not sure I can see a difference in the writing with the co-writer, although the format does mean that we’re in Peter’s head a lot less than usual, so we have less of the running commentary that makes the novels so much fun. However, this is made up for by the art, which is rather lovely and all the characters totally fitted with what was in my head, except, perhaps for DI Stephanopoulos. Peter himself and Molly were probably my favourites in terms of their visual representation.

This is short enough that after putting it down, I picked it up again five minutes later and read it again in a short space of time. There are, apparently, more graphic interludes to Peter’s story planned and I shall look forward to buying and reading them.

Book details

ISBN: 9781782761877
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2016

Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Two children have gone missing, somewhere in the country. There’s no obvious magical involvement, but just to be sure, PC Peter Grant goes up to have a look. And being Peter, can’t help getting involved. First just with family liaison and then, once things start getting weirder, more centrally.

This book takes Peter Grant out of his comfort zone, out of London (something that, speaking as a non-Londoner, they could all do with, once in a while). As one of the other reviews here says, it feels very much like a holding book. A chance for everyone to catch their breath before plunging on to whatever comes next. That’s not a criticism, far from it. Aaronovitch is an excellent writer, and Peter Grant’s narrative voice could keep me entertained for much longer than just this volume. The geek references, the police chatter, it’s all present and correct, and very readable. What’s missing is the usual crowd. Peter is isolated here; apart from some phone calls from Nightingale and Walid (and Lesley!) none of the usual supporting cast turn up, which makes our protagonist feel all the more vulnerable.

The wizarding world is expanded a bit here too, with retired wizard Hugh Oswald hinting about more of them around and providing some more background into Ettersberg. And we finally get a little bit more information about Molly as well, who hasn’t really had much attention since Rivers of London.

What lets the book down a bit is the ending. It’s going great and then you suddenly realise that there’s not much book left and wonder how all the plot strands are going to be wrapped up. In a phrase: they aren’t. So much is left hanging that it really doesn’t feel like there’s any resolution, which leaves me feeling frustrated. Even just another chapter at the end where Nightingale turns up and provides some exposition would have helped.

I’ll still definitely read the next book (and the one after that, I dare say) but I think I’ll start borrowing them from the library now.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575132504
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2014

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 5 stars

A few people have raved about this book for a while, enough of them being people whose taste I trust for me pick it up, and I’m certainly glad that I did. Peter Grant is a constable in the Met just coming to the end of his probation and finds himself questioning a dead man who has witnessed a murder. This leads to him becoming apprenticed to a wizard while still having to solve the murder as well as sort out a territorial dispute between gods along the Thames.

The story is pacey and moves along quickly, introducing a fairly large cast of characters, albeit one that never grows unmanageable. The protagonist is likeable and of a scientific bent of mind, spending time trying to figure out how the magic of his world interacts with modern technology and the why of it, as well as the how.

The book also brings London itself to centre stage. I’m not a huge fan of the city itself, finding it large, unfriendly and sprawling, but the descriptions in the book are loving and finely crafted, bringing the city to life.

I already have the second volume in the series, but I’m going to try and resist the urge to read it immediately, to make the books last longer, and also so as to not get fed up of them by reading them too quickly. As it is, I think that this is a book that deserves a re-read, as it had me turning pages to find out what happened next before I fully digested what was in front of me.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575097582
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2011

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 5 stars

Book four of Peter Grant’s ongoing adventures see him, fellow PC (and apprentice) Lesley May and their guv’nor Nightingale try and put together clues linking an apparent suicide of a town planner, the crowning glory of a somewhat mad German architect, a stolen grimoire and a rather grisly murder. Somewhere in there he has to provide protection for a spring celebration given by the God and Goddess of the Thames, try and figure out his feelings for Beverly Brook and continue his work in bringing science to the craft of magic.

Phew, that’s a lot to fit in to a book that’s just over 350 pages long, but it does it admirably. I don’t often sit and read books cover to cover in a single afternoon these days, but I did it for this one. The prose is light and easy to read, the characters likeable and PC Grant is still the everyman science geek who wants to know the ‘why’ of magic as much as the ‘how’. Throwing in pop culture references like hand grenades, making the book fizzle with energy.

It’s nice to see the gods and goddesses of the river make an appearance again in this book, although they’re mostly an extended cameo (although I suspect that the scenes with Beverly Brook are setting more up for the future). We learn a little more about the magical background of the world in this volume as well, including the fact that there are possibly equivalents to the Folly in other countries. The Faceless Man makes another appearance, retaining all his charm and menace. He remains a formidable opponent, one you you get the feeling may actually be a match for Nightingale.

The edition I read also had a short story set in the world of the Folly at the end called ‘The Cockpit’. This must take place sometime before the events of the main book and sees Peter and Lesley staking out a bookshop where weird things have been happening. Fairly slight but fun.

Roll on the next book!

Book details

Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2013

Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 5 stars

Ben Aaronovitch’s ‘Peter Grant’ series continues with this story of death and magic in the London Underground. This time round, our favourite apprentice wizard has to deal with the deal of an American senator’s son, as well as the over-enthusiastic FBI officer sent over to ‘observe’ the case. The book cover blurb makes a big play of Agent Reynolds’ religious convictions and feelings towards magic, but this wasn’t something that came up in the actual book. In fact, apart from a few requests to the British officers not to blaspheme, she seemed remarkably accepting of the whole thing. That may be an over-enthusiastic sub-editor at work, I suppose, but Agent Reynolds didn’t seem to add a huge amount to the story in my opinion. There were quite enough characters to drive the plot forward as it was without her.

The ongoing arc plot with the Faceless Man is still bubbling away, with some new details being drip-fed in this book, and there’s obviously still a lot of mileage in him. As there is with Peter’s colleague Lesley, who is upgraded to fellow apprentice in this book, following the revelation at the end of the last one. Both Peter and Lesley continue to be engaging and likeable characters, with Peter’s geek references continuing to flow freely, and his attempts at beginning a science of magic being both educational and entertaining. The supporting characters are all present and correct, from DCI Seawall and DI Stephanoplulos to the goddesses of the river Thames (although only a brief cameo from Lady Ty this time round).

The writing continues to be witty and light. The book is very quick and easy to read, light in tone but with deeper stuff going on underneath. London itself remains a major character in the book, something which is both endearing and somewhat wearing, for someone who is mostly unfamiliar with the city.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575097643
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2012

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

The second of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series is just as readable as the first. This time Detective Constable (and apprentice wizard) Peter Grant has to track down an unknown force killing jazz musicians, something that’s all too personal as his father is a (failed) jazz legend. This book also begins to sketch in more detail of the world of magic that Peter has been drawn into, with his mentor’s school being discussed and even visited and more magical practitioners being introduced – as well as someone who it looks is being set up as a Long Term Antagonist. I’m enjoying this drip feed of background information which helps flesh out the world. As well as this, the marvellous descriptions of London keep coming, with locations being lovingly described and a real love of the city emerging from every page.

The book’s plot is engaging and intriguing, with two different cases on the go which slowly start to intermingle. We have new characters introduced (my favourite being Somali Ninja Girl) and cameos by characters from the last one. I certainly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the continued adventures of DC Peter Grant, although I do hope that the series is leading up to an endpoint and won’t continue indefinitely.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575097605
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2011

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