Kobna Holdbrook-Smith again reads the words of Ben Aaronovitch as we return to apprentice magician and wizard Peter Grant, who again takes us to the London that we all know is there under the surface. You know the one with jazz vampires, which is fortuitous considering Peter’s dad is a jazz loving trumpet player with a title in jazz scene.
Book two in the series (Rivers of London was the first) finds Aaronovitch more relaxed and leisurely, which is a blessing and a curse in some ways. It’s a blessing as the we get to see a different side of Grant as he isn’t as action hero as Rivers of London but we also get to see less of the colourful characters that littered the first one. Though we do get a few nice cameos.
We also get less knocking on doors, so less of the police investigation, and more relationship building, but you know I like it for that. It shows that Aaronovitch isn’t repeating a formula. Instead he’s investigating his characters and their history more. We get to see more about the history of ‘The Folly’ and where all the wizards may, or may not, have gone.
I did realise one of the major twists earlier than I would have liked and I think that twisting in one more smaller thread into the story might have delayed that. But that’s only a minor distraction as I really enjoyed the voice of Grant. Both Holdbrook-Smith and Aaronovitch versions. Especially Peter having a practical edge to everything and not getting too airy faery about the mystical world he finds himself in. And I’m definitely not going to look at one of those carnival fortune telling heads the same way again.
What was really touching was following the effect on Lesley of the events of River of London and how she and Peter deal with it. And what really hit it home was Kobna doing Lesley’s voice and remembering it from Rivers of London before her life changed. Thankfully she’s strong on the inside.
One of the best urban fantasy series in years. One that is a must read if you love London (ror the idea of London) and want to see what could be happening just below the mystical surface
London and urban fantasy seems to come up enough for it slowly to becoming a trope (or a cliché depending on your love/tolerance but a cliché that works in my opinion). Not only is London a diverse and internationally recognised city it’s old enough to have a life of its own.
And it’s that heartbeat that powers Aaronovitch’s tale (as all good urban fantasy about London does). This time we get a police procedural mixed with the supernatural as Peter Grant probationary police constable’s career takes a different turn when he comes across a body and a while later comes to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last Wizard in England.
Now listening to a book does give you a different feel for it as the reader in your own mind doesn’t get a look in. I have to say that I love being read to and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith encompasses not only Peter Grant but the other characters he voiced along the way. He has a gruff London accent as he read but could easily sound creepy as he read the dialogue of… oh I’d better not say. But it was very atmospheric especially towards the climax.
There was a point when I was reading that I wondered what the opening had to do with what was going at that point as we seemed to have moved into something unrelated. I didn’t have to wait long. Aaronovitch played me like a fiddle. For a debut (though it’s not his first novel as he’s written a few tie-ins) I’m impressed by not only story which has lots of twists and turns to be compelling and surprising but also the atmosphere and character he injects. Aaronovitch truly captures the spirits of London.
From the opening you’d have to wonder where the rivers part of Rivers of London comes from but Peter and the audience are introduced quite expertly to the power of the Thames and its many children.
By using Grant as a novice magician (it’s better than transferring to the Case Progress Unit) we get to see the revelations that Peter is exposed to as well as seeing him introduce those concepts to his friend and colleague WPC Lesley May who is on bottom of the mundane side of murder investigation.
Aaronovitch packs a lot, but not too much, into his tale. Avoiding cliché and creating new myths of his own. I’ll never look at the Thames quite the same again.
The only negative I can think of is that even though the next one, Moon Over Soho is out I’ve got a wait for a little while until it’s read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith but I have a feeling that it’s going to be worth it.