Book Review: The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Book Review: The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Fiction: The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Defying categorization, The Night Tiger falls somewhere in between mystery and fantasy and historical romance. Yangsze Choo’s second novel is beautiful, with memorable characters and a compelling plot full of twists.

 

Ren is a very young houseboy. He claims to be thirteen, but his real age is eleven. After serving one doctor, he finds himself in the employ of another doctor with one goal in mind: to honor his first master’s dying wish. In Malay tradition, a soul wanders for 49 days after death before departing to the next life. If a body is not whole within that 49 day period, the soul is trapped and cannot move on. His master lost a finger to an infection some time ago. Ren’s job is to find that finger and bury it alongside the rest of his master’s body so that his soul can rest. All he knows is that his new master once had the finger.

 

Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker and part-time dance instructor. She is trying to earn extra money to help her mother. One of her dancing partners leaves a disgusting package behind…a severed finger. Ji Lin tries to return it to him with the help of her step-brother, only to find out the man has died under mysterious circumstances.

 

Ren and Ji Lin find themselves drawn together, both through circumstance and through shared dreams of a mysterious little boy. Choo does a great job of keeping their stories separate until they naturally come together. The author also keeps the reader guessing until the last moment about the mysteries that pervade the plot, mysteries which encompass the missing finger and several deaths throughout the novel. When it does all come together, the result is very satisfying. But I don’t want to spoil any details for other readers.

 

Chinese and Malay traditional beliefs are woven throughout, but are introduced with solid explanation so readers unfamiliar with those beliefs are not left behind. The five Confucian virtues figure prominently, and the names of many of the characters are taken from those virtues, including Ren and Ji Lin. Their encounters with various dream figures are possibly just dreams, and are possibly more than that. Choo does a nice job of leaving some decisions up to her readers.

 

A satisfying, beautifully written book with a compelling plot and thoughtful characters, The Night Tiger is a book I highly recommend to almost anyone who likes fiction. I loved it.

 

You might also enjoy:

Booklist: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

 

The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Book Review: The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents, Book 2 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

 

The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

Fantasy: The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

 

Isabella Camherst can face dragons. She has met with heads of state, with scientists from around the world. She survived the cold steppes and the machinations of local warlords, and as we learn in this volume she triumphed over the savannahs and swamps of Eriga. Early in this book, though, she faces her most formidable foe of all.

 

Her mother.

 

The Tropic of Serpents is the second volume of the memoirs of Lady Trent, a fantasy series set in a Victorian-type era where real men are men of breeding and education, and real women stay home and mind the household. Unless you are Lady Trent. Accompanied by a companion from her previous journey (a man, but not a man of breeding) and by a runaway heiress, Isabella sets forth to the continent of Eriga, home to lions and elephants and leopards and several kinds of dragons.

 

In Eriga she must navigate her way through palace intrigue, through political waters muddied by foreign influences (including those from her home country of Scirland), and eventually through the swamps of the “Green Hell,” the jungle home of a rare and surly type of dragon. She courts danger and scandal and finds plenty of both.

 

Marie Brennan’s delightful character must deal with converting skirts to trousers, being confined with other women during her menstruation, and other issues that are gender related. Brennan does a great job remaining true to the Victorian-era sensibilities, once with Isabella apologizing for the rough language of calling something a “godsend”; one shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain, although in fairness that is what the man said and neither the man nor Isabella are particularly religious. The book is at times whimsical, at times serious. Always, though, The Tropic of Serpents is a wonderful story about a very well-drawn character.

 

You might also enjoy:

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Book 3 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

Book Review: European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss

Book Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word (Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series), Genevieve Cogman

 

 

The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents, Book 2 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Book 3 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

 

Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Fantasy: Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

The Memoirs of Lady Trent is a fantasy series that grows more delightful the further you get into it. In Voyage of the Basilisk, the third of the series, Isabella Camherst sets sail to new seas and mysterious islands on board the royal survey ship Basilisk, and seeks to answer questions that were raised about affairs both scandalous and political.

 

She is accompanied on her voyage by her longtime colleague Tom Wilker–professional colleague only, it should be noted–and by her son Jacob and his governess Abby. Along the way she has occasion to study sea serpents in both the arctic and the tropics, and fire lizards on the volcanic islands they inhabit. She also runs afoul of various bureaucracies, as she is prone to do, and inadvertently courts scandal through her (professional and platonic) relationship with a foreign archaeologist. But, people will talk. Meanwhile, we learn more about dragons and their kin, we see her relationship with her son develop, and we learn more about the political intrigues that keep her fellow Scirlings busy and create opportunities for Mrs. Camherst to find trouble.

 

Throughout, we see the challenges Isabella faces due to her gender. Her society, a sort-of Victorian culture, devalues Tom Wilker because he does not come from a family of breeding and nobility. However, a male commoner still carries more weight among intellectuals than a female. Even when that female is from the nobility, and even after that female has proven herself through multiple trips of discovery and papers published. Isabella finds that her notoriety and scandal seem to attract more attention than her scholarly efforts, and despite the fact that the scandals are mere gossip and not based in actual misdeeds she is constantly faced with her alleged affairs being of more interest than her academic affairs. 

 

I was reminded of a recent photo of a scientist involved in a complex space endeavor. The photo went viral because the scientist was “cute,” rather than because she was brilliant. I suppose the value of a photo over that of an article will typically lie in the attractiveness of the subject, but it is a shame that the scientist’s contributions (which were invaluable) were somewhat muted by the focus on her appearance, and as she herself noted, the contributions of her team were largely ignored because of the emphasis on her. I have never noticed a male scientist’s photo going viral because he was “hot,” or really any more than a cursory description of appearance in any male scientist’s profile. That seems to be a burden for female scientists, to be judged by gender and appearance as well as for any contributions they are making to their fields.

 

Lady Trent’s memoirs are designed to put the record straight. The only affairs she engaged in were academic affairs of studying dragons, and affairs of state that she stumbled upon. Her relationships with men were collegial and professional, and if they were friendlier than is proper in staid Scirland that is only because of long association and tight quarters and not because of impropriety. The gossip that may have swirled about her is just that: gossip. It is not true, and it speaks more of the bearer than it does of her or any of her companions.

 

Just in case there were any doubts.

 

Voyage of the Basilisk continues the approach of first person memoir from a proper Victorian-esque lady. If at times there are long discourses on the nature of dragons, that is to be expected from the writings of a natural historian. Like its preceding novels, Voyage is breezy fun that invites the reader into a fascinating world of proper etiquette and sometimes quite improper dragons.

 

Book Review: European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss

Book Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word (Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series), Genevieve Cogman

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

 

Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Review: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

 

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Fantasy: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside is an epic fantasy set in a new world where technology operates magically through the use of written commands that change the way reality works for an object. Certain rules seem to control how this works: the commands must be written correctly and specifically, and they must be written either directly on the object they seek to influence or they must be written in very close proximity to it. They cannot be written on living beings.

 

Robert Jackson Bennett is no stranger to SFF, having written Hugo and Nebula award nominated books. Foundryside is the first book in a new series, the Founders trilogy, introducing complex new characters into a challenging new world. Bennett sets up a series of complex rules governing the use of magic in this world. He then proceeds to break almost every one of them.

 

How much fun is that?! My granddaughters love building towers of blocks. They love kicking them down even more. Bennett builds a world based on a specific set of rules, then uses the rest of the novel to ask, What if those rules could be broken?

 

Sancia Grado is a thief. She is very good. Maybe the best. When she is hired for a huge amount of money to steal a nondescript box out of an ordinary safe, the deal seems too good to be true. Despite her instructions, she opens the box and finds…a key.

 

A key. That, Talks.

 

With this discovery, we readers realize that Bennett is already breaking the rules of his own world. Sancia is magically enhanced, which allows her to hear the key. Except, humans cannot be magically enhanced. That’s supposed to be impossible. And tools cannot have personalities or talk or have memories. That’s also impossible. Sancia and the other characters recognize that these things are violations of the natural laws they’ve been taught cannot be changed. Figuring out how these laws are being broken, and why, is part of the fun of this novel.

 

Bennett brings together a community of intriguing, often flawed and hurting characters. Sancia is a former slave and a victim of cruel experimentation. She finds common cause with a “founderkin” (essentially nobility in this world) who was the sole survivor of a military catastrophe. Neither of them survived those experiences unharmed, nor do they or other characters escape damage in the course of this story. Not every character survives to the end of the novel. But every character experiences growth and/or change as a consequence of the events within the novel. That kind of character development sets this book apart from more ordinary stories in this or any genre.

 

Exciting plot. Great characters. Fascinating world, filled with rules that were clearly made to be broken, and which Bennett breaks with elan. Foundryside is an excellent book, and gives plenty of reasons to look forward to the next installment in this new series.

 

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Review: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Review: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Book Review: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Fantasy: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

My mother loved romance novels. Far from a guilty pleasure, she reveled in them. She would go to libraries, used bookstores, Goodwill and other thrift stores, anywhere that carried them and exchange a shopping bag full of books she had read for a pile of new-to-her romances. I sometimes teased her about possibly rereading them, about the lurid cover art some of them had, and about the unlikely yet oft repeated plots (at least, that’s what I imagined). I will admit to reading a few of them, but overall, romance is not my thing. (My wife would agree–and she’s the editor for Scintilla.)

 

So I will admit that it took me awhile to start reading The Poet by Nickie Krewson. A local area author, her first book is a fantasy romance. Fairies and humans and romance, oh my. I picked up the book last year during the Central PA Bookfest, part of the local Arts Festival, and put it on my shelf to get to…eventually. When I saw that Nickie Krewson was going to be coming again to the 2019 Bookfest, duty called and I started reading it.

 

And kept reading it.

 

In fact, I could hardly put it down.

 

I really wish my mother were still alive, because this is a book I would recommend to her wholeheartedly. Krewson sets her book in France, and she paints the French countryside beautifully with her words. Most of the action takes place in a small town in France, and the town and the surrounding countryside feel very real. You can almost see it, the sunsets and the fields and the forests. You can almost smell the cafe and hear the traffic and taste the baguettes.

 

However, the true beauty of this book is in the people. Her characters are intriguing and far from perfect. Yes, there are fairies and magic and the protagonist writes sonnets, but it is not over the top cheesy. In fact, it is very human and down to earth. One character struggles with addiction. Others struggle with their own internal issues. There are very real friendships, true love between parent and child, between brother and sister, and, yes, romantic love as well, but the romance is only part of the story. The friendship between two of the characters, along with the brother/sister relationship two characters develop, may be more important than the romance.

 

People who like romance should like this book. Many fantasy readers will also enjoy it. But Krewson’s work deserves more than a niche audience. The characters are compelling, the story keeps moving, and the settings are beautiful. It is worth picking up and starting, and if you are like me, you may find it hard to stop.

Nickie Krewson

Nickie Krewson will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year celebrating authors who are from our local area.

 

The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Book Review: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Book Review: Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik

Book Review: Spinning Silver: A Novel, Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver: A Novel by Naomi Novik

Fantasy: Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik

I didn’t particularly like Prince Casimir. He’d come to stay at my father’s house once, and I’d been beneath his notice, so he hadn’t been on his best behavior….He was nearly my father’s age, and a man who lived almost entirely on the surface. But he wasn’t a fool, or cruel. And more to the point, I was reasonably certain he wasn’t going to try and devour my soul. My expectations for a husband had lowered.

 

Spinning Silver is a sweeping reinvention of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. Miryam is the daughter of a moneylender, one who is too nice to be successful. Frustrated at her family’s poverty and the disrespect her Jewish family faces, she takes over the debt collection business and changes their fortunes. However, she unwisely boasts of her ability to turn silver into gold while in the forest, within the hearing of the king of the Staryk. This fairy creature has silver but needs gold, and he gives her a bag of silver coins for her to turn into gold for him.

 

Miryam realizes that she has no choice but to obey. She takes the silver to a jeweler in the city, who melts it into a ring for the duke. The ring is sold and the purchase is made with gold coins. But, of course, the transaction was never going to be a one off, and more silver follows.

 

Irina is the daughter of the duke, of marriageable age but not particularly attractive or notable. However, the silver is magical, and the duke realizes that with the unmarried tsar visiting soon, magical jewelry on his daughter might attract the tsar’s eye. He purchases everything that Miryam can have made, and bargains are set that push two unwilling women into unwelcome marriages.

 

For the Staryk king has decided that a mortal with the gift of turning silver into gold would make a fine queen. And the tsar is not himself, but is possessed by a demon who wants nothing more than to take the life of one who can wear magical jewelry. Unless these two women can find a way to work together, their lives and the lives of everyone in two kingdoms may be forfeit.

 

Naomi Novik is a prizewinning author with both a John Campbell and a Nebula award to her credit. In her two latest books, 2016’s Uprooted (Nebula winner) and 2018’s Spinning Silver, she has begun a series of books taking Polish fairy tales and reimagining them. In this case, she has indeed taken the silver of a classic fairy tale and spun it into the gold of a marvelous fantasy novel.

 

Spinning Silver shifts back and forth between the perspectives of Miryam, Irina, Miryam’s servant Wanda, Wanda’s brother Stepon, and Tsar Mirnatius. It also shifts back and forth in time occasionally, retelling the same events from different perspectives. This can be confusing sometimes, but Novik usually does a good job distinguishing the voices and perspectives to help the reader stay with her. In a book that builds two worlds so fully, the human world where Miryam and Irina live and the Staryk world, the occasional confusion during a perspective change is a small challenge for the reader.

 

Novik does not shy away from legitimate social issues within her worlds. The Staryk world is very hierarchical. It is an icy world, gripped in winter. To protect his world from the demon living in the tsar, the Staryk king is quite willing to freeze the human world and kill all of the people living in it. That iciness is not only toward humans. Staryk are not given names until they are valued by someone willing to name them. It may be the most valuable gift a Staryk peasant can receive.

 

Miryam’s family are Jews. Because of this, they are resented and not trusted by the general population. Miryam’s grandfather, also a moneylender, could greatly advance his standing in the city if he converted. He refused. Miryam’s parents are despised in their small town, even though her father’s soft heart means he allows people to go for years without repaying their debts. To her credit, Novik does not assume any fantasy can fix anti-Semitism. Miryam fights to conquer the Staryk king. There is no magical cure for blind hatred.

 

Spinning Silver is pure gold. My only suggestion: make sure you read it someplace warm. The descriptions of northern European winter and the icy Staryk kingdom made me want to hunker under blankets the entire time. Hot chocolate, warm fires, thick blankets, and time to savor a magical fantasy.

Spinning Silver: A Novel by Naomi Novik

Book Review: Spinning Silver: A Novel, Naomi Novik

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (The Lady Trent Memoirs) by Marie Brennan

Fantasy: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Lady Trent is a naturalist, an expert in dragons. For a woman to accomplish this in a Victorian-type society is no small accomplishment. It is little wonder, then, that her autobiography would be so eagerly sought by publishers. A Natural History of Dragons is the first installment of her autobiography, one that tells the story of her early life, her marriage, and her first trip abroad to study dragons in their native habitats.

 

Marie Brennan thus begins a new fantasy series set in a Victorian-esque world where ladies wear dresses and do not do things like travel abroad to study dragons. Unless those ladies are Lady Trent. In this fun and well-written book, styled as a first-person autobiography of the protagonist, our heroine breaks the mold of feminine society to pursue her passion as a natural historian, studying dragons in the mountains of someplace like Russia (but not actually Russia).

 

Lady Trent is smart, brave, and quite willing to confront society, travel hardships, smugglers, and dragons head-on. She is self-aware, noticing her own shortcomings and occasional lack of compassion with regret. She loves her husband almost as much as she loves her dragons. In all, she is a delightful protagonist.

 

As fun as it is to see a woman tackling the conventions of Victorian society, it’s important to step back for a moment and realize that women and girls still struggle to break through stereotypes to pursue careers in the sciences and other STEM fields. Reading about the challenges faced by a woman who was expected to fulfill her role as wife and mother and lady-in-society should serve to remind us that society still has expectations of women that are governed more by gender perceptions than by logic. We can be grateful that a woman traveling to study animals in their native habitats is no longer scandalous. Let’s be even more grateful when a woman pursuing her career in science or math is no longer unusual.

 

Marie Brennan has written a fun novel about a bold protagonist who may be as brave as the dragons she studies. I look forward to getting into further Lady Trent novels, and learning more about dragons in the process.

 

If you like this book you may enjoy:

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Book 3 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

Book Review: European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss

Book Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word (Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series), Genevieve Cogman

 

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (The Lady Trent Memoirs) by Marie Brennan

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Foxglove Summer, Rivers of London Book 5, Ben Aaronovitch

 

Foxglove Summer, Rivers of London Book 5, Ben Aaronovitch

Fantasy: Foxglove Summer, Rivers of London Book 5, Ben Aaronovitch

 

This fifth installment of the DC Peter Grant series of books brings London’s very most junior detective wizard to the country. Two young girls, age 11, have gone missing. Since on very rare occasions children are used in evil magical practices, DC Grant is sent to rule out involvement by an elderly retired wizard who lives in the area. Although he quickly determines that the wizard played no part in the disappearance, Grant offers to stay to help the local force in their search. He is a policeman, these are children whose lives are at stake, and so it is all hands on deck.

 

When the girls’ phones are found, though, they show signs of having been affected by magic. This puts Grant at the center of the investigation, and although the retired wizard may be innocent there are other magical forces at play. Aided by the arrival of his sometime love interest, Beverly Brook, goddess of a small river near London, Grant looks into local phenomenon that might explain where the girls had gone. There is the wizard’s mysterious daughter, who has a way with local bees and with local boys. There are the local water goddesses, who are less than pleased with Beverly’s arrival for reasons they will not explain. There are the occasional texts from his former partner who betrayed him to side with an evil magician. And there is the strange rumor that one of the missing girls had an invisible friend. Not imaginary–invisible. In other words, plenty of things to keep an investigator of the paranormal busy.

 

Aaronovitch’s writing is delightful. His plots are involved but not muddy, his characters are complex and interesting, and his prose is crisp and sometimes hilarious. He weaves in some pointed social commentary with a deft touch of humor through his examination of race as a factor in Grant’s work. Grant finds himself the only person of color involved in the search for the girls (until Beverly arrives). This gives him the opportunity to practice his diversity training, since working with all white rural police and citizens provides multiple cultural cross-currents. Fortunately he manages to avoid conflict even when some of the less broad minded citizens seem bent upon fomenting it.

 

The world building in this series is quite elaborate, and moving the setting to the country allows Aaronovitch to add multiple layers to the work he has already established in London. Grant approaches magic from a scientific mindset. He likes to reason out how and why magic works. In the city, vestigia or echoes of magic remain observable (to the trained) on hard surfaces: stone, metal, plastic, and to a much lesser extent flesh. In the country, though, with dirt and plants, how is magic absorbed…or is it? Are magical beings visible only in certain types of light? Is there a parallel fae world existing essentially overlaid on the mortal world? Those are questions that did not require a full answer on the streets of London, but in this rural setting they become central to the search for the girls.

 

Foxglove Summer is a nice addition to a series that is fun and fascinating. It is one of the best urban fantasy series I have ever read, made even better by this sojourn out of the city.

 

Also see by the same author:

Book Review: Midnight Riot, Rivers of London Book 1, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes. Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

 

Foxglove Summer, Rivers of London Book 5, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Foxglove Summer, Rivers of London Book 5, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Detective Peter Grant is becoming stronger in his magical powers, more confident in his detective work, but still is not allowed to drive DCI Nightingale’s jaguar around the streets of London. Nor is he very good at telling the future, like when a river goddess suggests she may start a flood, she may actually start a flood. Still, it was a small flood, insurance paid for most of it, and that really wasn’t his fault. Probably.

Broken Homes is the fourth book in what is quickly becoming one of my favorite series, The Rivers of London. Aaronovitch has quirky and likeable characters interacting in believable ways–that is, once you accept the premise that there is an entire magical London living among and amid the ordinary human residents. It makes sense that this magical London would have dedicated police officers who work to capture rogue wizards and witches, keep the peace between various magical factions, and above all prevent ordinary humans from realizing they are surrounded by magic.

Peter, Nightingale, Lesley, and the rest of the crew (including Toby the dog) are trying to solve multiple crimes when they realize that those crimes are related. We see the return of a witch they faced in a previous novel, but here they find out she is much more powerful than they had realized before. They also find clues that the “faceless man” is becoming active again, a powerful wizard who nearly killed Peter during their last encounter. Not even Nightingale is certain he can be beaten, which gives Peter and Lesley increased urgency in their training. When they are required to move into a building to investigate suspicious activity, that brings them face to face with their most challenging enemies.

Aaronovitch has built a terrific sandbox in this Rivers of London series, and invited all of us to play in it with him. Broken Homes is a fun and easy read. Well worth the time.

Also see by the same author:

Book Review: Midnight Riot, Rivers of London Book 1, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Foxglove Summer, Rivers of London Book 5, Ben Aaronovitch

 

Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

 

Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant got his start in the police department that handles magic by interviewing a ghost who witnessed a murder. So when a young girl who lives near his parent’s apartment says she has seen a ghost, he can’t really ignore her request to come investigate it. This is the first supernatural visit to London’s underground that DC Grant and DC Lesley May make. It won’t be the last.

 

Whispers Underground is the third installment in a terrific series, Rivers of London. Ben Aaronovitch uses a lot of humor and terrific characters to tell a magical story. After investigating the ghost young Abigail has found, they are called to investigate a murder, a young man stabbed by a piece of pottery. The pottery has traces of vestigium, the echo left by magic, an echo that only those trained in magic can usually sense. Grant and May are part of the Metropolitan Police Force’s department that handles magic and the supernatural, and they are now part of a high profile case.

 

The victim is an American art student, the son of a US senator. This means that the FBI has a vested interest in the case, and despite his quite junior status on the team the agent decides that Grant is the one she should focus on. Scotland Yard may have a division focusing on magic, but it doesn’t LIKE having that division, and especially doesn’t like admitting that they have that division…or even admitting that magic exists. They certainly don’t want to share that information with their friends across the pond. This makes things awkward for Grant. He is charged with investigating a crime involving magic, underneath the watchful observation of an FBI agent, without revealing that magic is involved or even that magic exists.

 

Good. Luck.

 

Aaronovitch continues his often hilarious storytelling style in this wonderful series. The humor is quite dry. In some ways this was the most “British” of the novels, with no efforts made to translate the British idioms into American ones for us colonists. For me that adds to the charm. I don’t mind looking up words that I don’t know. If I am going to read a book set in London, written by a writer living in London, I may as well experience the full effect. A trip to London is on my bucket list…but for now I will have to settle for the vicarious experience through fiction.

 

This series continues to delight. Through wit, compassion, and maybe a little magic, Aaronovitch gives us an urban fantasy that feels very real. His characters are wonderful, his setting is vivid, and his stories are imaginative. It’s hard to ask for anything more in a book.

Also see

Book Review: Midnight Riot, Rivers of London Book 1, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

 

Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch