My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)
It’s taken me ages to get around to reading this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it when I did.
Yet I find myself not knowing what to say about it. If you’ve already met Peter Grant, you know what he’s like. The short version is “awesome” but there’s a lot more to him than that. If you haven’t, go away right now, find a copy of Midnight Riot (aka Rivers of London in the UK, which is a much better title) and get to know him.
He’s a London police constable who, after an encounter with a ghost, discovers that magic is real and becomes the first official apprentice magician in the UK for 50 years. He’s snarky and ironic and makes pop culture references that the reader gets, even if the characters around him don’t.
This time around, he’s caught up in the murder investigation of an American student, while also trying to track down the dark magician that turned up in the previous book.
I’m particularly glad that books don;t come with accompanying smells, as quite a bit of time was spent in the London sewers.
The books have been described as having London as a character in its own right, and while I can agree with this, I do also struggle with it since it’s not a place I know. Aaronovitch doesn’t spell everything out – and I don’t think I’d want him to – but it does mean that as Peter rattles around London, even though he describes where he’s been and where he’s going, it might as well be a made up city for me because I don’t have any idea at all about the layout of London.
One thing I did particularly like was that Peter, being of mixed race (his mother is from Sierra Leone), would describe the white characters as being “white” while anyone else didn’t get a colour identifier. It made me realise something that I did know before but don’t often think about, that most books I read have a default-white view and it is the characters with other coloured skins that are described with regard to their race and/or colour. Good work from Aaronovitch to show that up to me by using it in reverse and totally appropriately for a narrator who (as far as I can tell and remember) identifies as black – or at the very least, fully understands that that is how strangers see him.
(The paragraph has probably shown up all my own prejudices and privileges, but I wanted to give Aaronovitch kudos for make me notice when I admit that I often don’t, much as I might wish to be more sensitive and/or observant.)
Another great book in the series and I’m now really looking forward to Broken Homes, which comes out this June.