The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

The Furthest StationThe Furthest Station

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #5.7

eARC, 144 pg.
Subterranean Press, 2017

Read: April 24, 2017

He asked if we were really ghost hunting, and I said we were.

“What, like officially?”

“Officially secret,” I said because discretion is supposed to be, if not our middle name, at least a nickname we occasionally answer to when we remember.

This novella hit the spot — a short, but fully developed, adventure with our friends from the Rivers of London series — full of action, a bit of snark, and seeing Peter in his element (and far out of it, too). Would I have preferred a full novel? Sure — but if I can’t have one, this is more than adequate.

Peter Grant, apprentice wizard and Police Constable, is investigating several reports of a ghost terrorizing people on the Underground during the morning commute. Naturally, even when interviewed immediately following a sighting the witness would only be able to remember details for a few moments before they forgot and/or rationalized them away. Which makes it pretty difficult to ask follow-up questions. As Peter continues to investigate, he ends up finding a very non-supernatural crime that he needs to deal with, even if he goes about it in a pretty supernatural way. While there’s little in this series that I don’t like, but Peter doing regular policework is one of my favorite parts.

Along for the ride (and looking for trouble) is his cousin, Abigail Jumara, acting as a summer intern for the Folly. Honestly, I barely remembered her when she shows up here — but I eventually remembered her, and I was glad to see her back. I’m not necessarily sure that I need to see her all the time, but seeing more of her would definitely be pleasant.

In addition to the subplot about Abigail’s future, there’s a subplot revolving around another personification of a river — not one of Mama Thames’, either. I enjoyed it, and thought it fit in nicely with the rest of the novella, while giving us the requisite dose of a body of water.

There’s not a lot to sink your teeth into here — but the novella length doesn’t leave you wanting more (like a short story would). It’s good to see the Folly involved in smaller cases. Not just the serial killing, major magical threat, etc. kind of thing — but the “smaller” stuff, too.

For any fan of the Folly/Peter Grant/Rivers of London series, this is one to get. It’d even make a pretty good introduction to the series for someone who hasn’t yet discovered this fun UF series.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Subterranean Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both, I needed something like this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars

Pub Day Repost: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

I really hadn’t intended to make this a Rivers of London day, but I had notes and partial drafts for those other two, so I figured I might as well as a way to lead up to this. Which, sadly, is going up later than I wanted, but Dadding before blogging, right?

The Hanging TreeThe Hanging Tree

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #6

eARC, 336 pg.
DAW, 207

Read: November 11 – 15, 2016

I lost track of how many times a certain retailer let me know that my pre-order for this had been rescheduled, but now a little more than 2 years after The Rivers of London most recently flowed through these books, The Hanging Tree is out (in parts of the world, anyway). I’m firmly in the camp of those willing to let authors take their time to get the book right, but I’m just as firmly in the camp wanting authors of my favorite series to hurry up. Thankfully, whatever delayed this publication gave Aaronovitch the time he needed to deliver his best yet.

Peter’s pushed into investigating a drug-related death, which soon shows itself to actually need a man of his particular skills when one of the parties involved (perhaps very involved) is the daughter of Lady Tyburn herself. Mostly anonymous teens up to illegal things, an overbearing mother to a suspect/witness, and the natural teenage disinclination to telling the police anything and you’ve got yourself a mess — particularly when the overbearing mother isn’t your biggest fan, and is a deity of sorts.

Poor Peter.

Along the way, Peter and Nightingale find the trail of a lost Newton masterpiece, a couple of interesting allies, and the return of some familiar, but not recently seen, foes. Some of what happens with returning adversaries will surprise, please, and frustrate long-time readers.

For series like this, more important than the plot are the characters — and Aaronovitch did everything right on this front. A few notes on this Peter’s more confident — professionally and personally. He’s coming along pretty well with his magic — yay! At the same time, you can see the way that he’s bringing change to the Folly little mannerisms and activities with Nightingale and Molly that you know they weren’t going to be up to until Peter moved in. I liked how Bev was used — even if she wasn’t around as much as usual — and the way their relationship is developing; her sister Lady Tyburn is probably used better here than ever before. There’s a new assistant for Dr. Walid, Dr. Jennifer Vaughan — we don’t get a lot of her, but there’s promise (and I like the fact that this universe is expanding). Lastly, I need to talk about Guleed — I know she’s been around awhile, but I didn’t really click with her until this book (as much as I enjoyed her in Body Work) — I like the way she works with Peter, the flavor she brings to things — I hope we see a lot more of her.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there’s a brief appearance by an author of note early on in the book — I’d love for him to show up again in some context where Peter doesn’t have to be so diplomatic with him. I chuckled a lot, and would love to hear Aaronovitch talk about this character and any real-life models he drew upon.

Not only do we get the typical Aaronovich-level stories and action, we get a big expansion in the number, types, and nationalities of magic users in this book. Not only are there the official practitioners of magic that The Folly is aware of, there are those they’re not tracking (but probably should start). Just this shift alone in the universe makes this book a winner — adding it to the rest is just frosting.

I’m really glad, incidentally, that I recently listened to the first audiobook in the series — there’s some significant call-backs to it throughout this book. I’d probably have been okay relying on memory, but the connections worked better for me with everything fresh in my head. Ditto for the number of references to Body Work – I’d have been fine not understanding the references made to it, they’re not integral to anything, but it was fun knowing what Peter was talking about.

This took me too long to read — which isn’t Aaronovitch’s fault, it’s just been one of those weeks, every time I started to really get into this book, I was interrupted by something — and it drove me crazy. Do what you can — kill the phone, lock the door, grab some snacks and a beverage of your choice and settle in for Aaronovich’s best yet, you won’t want to put it down. I can’t say enough good things about this.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from DAW via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

I really hadn’t intended to make this a Rivers of London day, but I had notes and partial drafts for those other two, so I figured I might as well as a way to lead up to this. Which, sadly, is going up later than I wanted, but Dadding before blogging, right?

The Hanging TreeThe Hanging Tree

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #6

eARC, 336 pg.
DAW, 207

Read: November 11 – 15, 2016

I lost track of how many times a certain retailer let me know that my pre-order for this had been rescheduled, but now a little more than 2 years after The Rivers of London most recently flowed through these books, The Hanging Tree is out (in parts of the world, anyway). I’m firmly in the camp of those willing to let authors take their time to get the book right, but I’m just as firmly in the camp wanting authors of my favorite series to hurry up. Thankfully, whatever delayed this publication gave Aaronovitch the time he needed to deliver his best yet.

Peter’s pushed into investigating a drug-related death, which soon shows itself to actually need a man of his particular skills when one of the parties involved (perhaps very involved) is the daughter of Lady Tyburn herself. Mostly anonymous teens up to illegal things, an overbearing mother to a suspect/witness, and the natural teenage disinclination to telling the police anything and you’ve got yourself a mess — particularly when the overbearing mother isn’t your biggest fan, and is a deity of sorts.

Poor Peter.

Along the way, Peter and Nightingale find the trail of a lost Newton masterpiece, a couple of interesting allies, and the return of some familiar, but not recently seen, foes. Some of what happens with returning adversaries will surprise, please, and frustrate long-time readers.

For series like this, more important than the plot are the characters — and Aaronovitch did everything right on this front. A few notes on this Peter’s more confident — professionally and personally. He’s coming along pretty well with his magic — yay! At the same time, you can see the way that he’s bringing change to the Folly little mannerisms and activities with Nightingale and Molly that you know they weren’t going to be up to until Peter moved in. I liked how Bev was used — even if she wasn’t around as much as usual — and the way their relationship is developing; her sister Lady Tyburn is probably used better here than ever before. There’s a new assistant for Dr. Walid, Dr. Jennifer Vaughan — we don’t get a lot of her, but there’s promise (and I like the fact that this universe is expanding). Lastly, I need to talk about Guleed — I know she’s been around awhile, but I didn’t really click with her until this book (as much as I enjoyed her in Body Work) — I like the way she works with Peter, the flavor she brings to things — I hope we see a lot more of her.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there’s a brief appearance by an author of note early on in the book — I’d love for him to show up again in some context where Peter doesn’t have to be so diplomatic with him. I chuckled a lot, and would love to hear Aaronovitch talk about this character and any real-life models he drew upon.

Not only do we get the typical Aaronovich-level stories and action, we get a big expansion in the number, types, and nationalities of magic users in this book. Not only are there the official practitioners of magic that The Folly is aware of, there are those they’re not tracking (but probably should start). Just this shift alone in the universe makes this book a winner — adding it to the rest is just frosting.

I’m really glad, incidentally, that I recently listened to the first audiobook in the series — there’s some significant call-backs to it throughout this book. I’d probably have been okay relying on memory, but the connections worked better for me with everything fresh in my head. Ditto for the number of references to Body Work – I’d have been fine not understanding the references made to it, they’re not integral to anything, but it was fun knowing what Peter was talking about.

This took me too long to read — which isn’t Aaronovitch’s fault, it’s just been one of those weeks, every time I started to really get into this book, I was interrupted by something — and it drove me crazy. Do what you can — kill the phone, lock the door, grab some snacks and a beverage of your choice and settle in for Aaronovich’s best yet, you won’t want to put it down. I can’t say enough good things about this.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from DAW via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan

Body WorkRivers of London: Body Work

by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan (Artist)
Series: Rivers of London Comics, #1

Trade Paperback, 128 pg.
Titan Comics, 2016

Read: April 30, 2016


The Folly — Peter Grant and his boss, Inspector Nightingale — make their way to comics in this collection from Titan Comics. The two are facing a threat right out of a Stephen King novel: a homicidal car.

There’s more to it, of course, but that’s it in essence.

The story was entertaining, and fully captured the feel of the novels (easier with the writer of the books writing these). This seemed slight — a bit too brief. But it wasn’t — maybe it just flowed so smoothly I didn’t notice. Maybe there wasn’t that much of a story, I’m not sure. I’m willing to give Aaronovitch and the rest the benefit of the doubt.

The best part of this collection is that it solidified my mental image of Grant, clarified my idea of Molly, and reshaped/corrected my idea of Nightingale. The art wasn’t dazzling, but it was good.

It didn’t blow me away, but it scratched the Peter Grant itch and made me want to read more. If I sound like I’m not totally sold on this, it’s because I probably wasn’t, but I’m glad I read it and should be reading the next collection in a month or so — so there’s that.

—–

3 Stars

Midnight Riot (Audiobook) by Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Midnight Riot (Audiobook) Midnight Riot

by Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Narrator)
Series: The Rivers of London, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 57 min.
Tantor Media, 2012
Read: October 11 – 14, 2016


The best part about listening to this was being reminded just how good this novel was — sure, I remember liking it a lot (if for no other reason than I’ve read five more plus a collection of comics), but I didn’t remember it being this good.

Briefly — in this we’re introduced to a probationary constable named Peter Grant who’s approached by an odd witness to an odder (and disturbing) murder. What makes the witness odd? Well, he’s been dead for a couple of centuries. Soon thereafter, Peter’s meets a Chief Inspector who happens to be the last wizard in England. Peter’s transferred to his unit (doubling the size), taken on as an apprentice and thrust into a type of policing he wouldn’t have believed existed a week ago.

The investigation into this murder turns into an investigation for several murders — and a few other assorted crimes. Which, of course, involves diving into the history of London and brokering peace between competing river deities. That old yarn. It’s a great mix of magic and police work, basic Latin and advanced bureaucracy.

Holdbrook-Smith did a fine job with the narration, very engaging, often compelling — capturing the feel of the novel in just the way that everyone wants in an audiobook. I’d be more than happy to hear more from him.

It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s pretty complex — and, in retrospect, — does a much better job laying the foundation for the series than I’d remembered. A good amount of wonder and action combined.

—–

4 Stars

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove SummerFoxglove Summer

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #5


Mass Market Paperback, 323 pg.
Daw Books, 2015
Read: January 9 – 10, 2014

“Hail the conquering hero,” said Beverly and held up her bottle to clink.
Sic transit Gloria mundi,” I said, because it was the first thing that came into my head — we clinked and drank. It could have been worse. I could have said, “Valar Morghulis” instead.

It’s always a pleasure to spend some time in the pages of a Peter Grant/The Rivers of London novel, but Foxglove Summer is probably the most pleasurable entry in the series since Midnight Riot (The Rivers of London for non-US types). I’m not sure I can put my finger on why that’s the case, but that’s not something I’m going to worry about. Unlike Peter’s mother, who

never saw a gift horse that she wouldn’t take down to the vet to have its mouth X-rayed — if only so she could establish its resale value.

Two young girls have vanished in a small village slightly north of London, and Peter’s sent to make sure that the (supposedly) no longer active wizard in the area had nothing to do with it. Having done so, he decides to stick around and see if he can help with some of the routine/mundane work needed.

Naturally — well, I should say, Supernaturally, it’s not long before The Powers That Be ask him to see if there’s an angle to the case that’s more up his alley than theirs. Peter finds some undeniable evidence of magic at work and things get going from there.

Nothing against London — but loved this breath of fresh air in this novel. For example, Peter’s dealing with different superior officers to not want to deal with magic/supernatural — these don’t have the antagonism that usually shows up in London, they just don’t want anything to do with it. The town is full of interesting types — including traveling fair ride owners, tavern keepers, farmers, and vacationing journalists.

As always with this series, the sheer amount of British Police acronyms and assumed knowledge of structure and procedures are a hurdle many US readers won’t want to try (I’ve been told this by a few who I’ve tried to get to read these books) — it’s a little effort, and easily worth it to overcome.

My major — only? — gripe is that Peter’s not making a lot of progress with his magic, he seems to be pretty much where he was three novels back. Yes, he’s more confident, yes, he’s able to apply his knowledge of magic with some good old-fashioned police ingenuity — but his abilities and skills are still rookie-level. Without Beverly as magic back-up, he’d be in trouble. The two of them — plus one local cop out of his depth, but committed to work — are able to handle things.

Yeah, it was nice not to focus on Lesley and the Faceless One (which isn’t to say their shadows don’t loom over a good chunk of the book), but it’s clear that they’ll be back in a really big way soon. Which I’m looking forward to, as nice as it was to have this mental palate cleanser here. Foxglove Summer was great mix of police procedural, Urban Fantasy and Folklore — both traditional and contemporary (the area’s obsession with UFOs is great) — with Aaronovitch’s deft humor, pop culture references and tight plotting. We’ve got ourselves a winner here.

—–

4 Stars

Review Catch Up: Broken Homes; Black Arts; The Player; Speaking from Among the Bones

I’ve got a backlog of 50 or so reviews I’ve been meaning to write — some of them, I just have to admit aren’t going to get done. But I’m going to try my level best. The four books I’ve decided to tackle in one fell swoop are books I enjoyed, from series I enjoy, and yet I’ve had trouble reviewing them. In the end, I decided that was because by and large, I don’t have anything to say about these books that I haven’t said about others in the series.

But I do want 1. clear these off my to-do list and 2. more importantly, encourage readers to give these a look. So, without further ado:

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)Broken Homes

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #4

Mass Market Paperback, 324 pg.
DAW, 2014
Read: February 15, 2014

The plot took its own sweet time getting where it was going, with a lot of strange little turns here and there — which works because it’s probably what actual policemen go through investigating a crime. But almost doesn’t work because it makes it feel like Aaronovitch didn’t pace this correctly (which is silly, because he did).

I really, really liked the undercover stuff. The conclusion is probably the best that this series has been. It’d be great if Peter learned a bit more though, his stumbling efforts are amusing, but it’s time for more proficiency.

I’m eager for the next one of these (and would be even without the big twist) — such a great world he’s created here, and I want to learn more about it and the characters that inhabit it.
4 Stars

—–

Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock, #7)Black Arts

by Faith Hunter
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #7
Mass Market Paperback, 325 pg.
Roc, 2014
Read: March 25 – 29, 2014

What’s to say about this one, that I haven’t said about other books in the series already?

The action’s tight, the vamp politics and Jane’s interaction with it are pretty interesting, Faith’s coming to grips with more of her background was really compelling, and her growing relationship with the brothers is fun.

Obviously, this is the most personal case that Jane’s had yet — for someone to be messing around with Molly, that’s just beyond the pale. Those raised stakes (pun fully intended), and the ongoing drama with Leo’s grip on the New Orleans vampires made this the best of the series.
4 Stars

—–

The Player: A Mystery (Carter Ross, #5)The Player

by Brad Parks
Series: Carter Ross, #5

Hardcover, 336 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2014
Read: April 1 – 4, 2014

What’s to say about this one, that I haven’t said about other books in the series already?

A lot of fun — great characters, love Carter’s voice, everything that you want to see in a Carter Ross novel was here — twisty conspiracy, some good laughs, Carter’s personal life in shambles. It was nice to meet his family.

Sadly, I’m at a loss for words here (something that never seems to be Carter’s problem), this was a lot of fun. I want a lot more of these.
4 Stars

—–

Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia de Luce, #5 )Speaking from Among the Bones

by Alan Bradley

Hardcover, 372 pg.
Delacorte Press, 2013
May 16 – 14, 2014

Flavia’s her typical charming, precocious, incorrigible self. Perhaps a bit more clever than we’ve seen her before, definitely with less a sense of self-preservation than we’ve seen previously. Her sisters are a bit, more human? Or maybe Flavia’s portraying them more honestly/more sympathetically. The financial pressures her father’s under are more and more pressing, causing everyone to be a bit more realistic, it seems.

Still, that doesn’t deter Flavia from doing her thing when a body is discovered. It’s everything you want in a Flavia de Luce novel — very, very smart conclusion to this mystery.
3 Stars