Friday, January 27, 2012
When reading the follow-up book in new, rather pulp-ish urban fantasy series a reader really is looking for more of the same magical entertainment they found in the first. I’m happy to say that Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) does just that in its follow-up to the wildly popular debut in the series, Midnight Riot, aka Rivers of London in the UK (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound). Only, there is more – Aaronovitch lays the groundwork for some potentially interesting complexities moving forward.
Someone, or something, appears to be killing jazz musicians in London. Constable Peter Grant is on the case as he continues his apprenticeship to his senior officer, who is London’s last remaining wizard. Things get complicated, a new romantic interest enters the scene as Peter copes with horrific damage his close friend recovers from. Jazz vampires, vaginal teeth and chimeras all await Peter, who for all his potential as London’s next wizard, is still just a rookie copper.
It’s odd, looking back on Midnight Riot I see that my main complaints really don’t have that much do with Aaronovitch’s writing. There is the whole white-washing cover issue which is still present but has no impact on the story. And there is my complaint of ‘Americanization’ of some of the language. This second issue seems much less prevalent in Moon Over Soho than it did in Midnight Riot, though I did still catch a remark or two about ‘soccer’ (come-on, what self-respecting Londoner would call football, soccer?). Excepting that, Aaronovitch creates the perfect atmosphere of a London that most people never see.
The plot of Moon Over Soho owes a lot to traditional pulp mysteries. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that much is predictable, but it doesn’t really matter since it’s fun and engaging. I find I’m much less interested in the immediate plot on hand than the background. What is the history of Peter’s boss Nightingale? Peter’s own evolution as a wizard. Just how is magic operating in a modern London? And frankly, Peter is just a fun guy to follow and the ‘real’ London that Aaronovitch creates is addicting. Peter isn’t perfect – he’s a rookie that makes mistakes and doesn’t know all that much. And it’s always a relief to have a character who doesn’t miraculously become an expert in everything – even if Peter does have the occasional miraculous leap.
In many ways, the conclusion to Moon Over Soho was both hugely disappointing and quite satisfying. The original mystery on hand is resolved, however other introduced issues are not. More resolution would have been great – but I’m also very intrigued by the possibility of an ‘arch-nemesis’ being introduced. And the future of The Folly is going to get quite interesting.
This is another fun entry in what is fast becoming one of my favorite ongoing urban fantasy series. I may not be able to physically travel to London near as often as I’d like, but at least I get a tour that the tourists don’t when I read about Peter Grant’s London. Thankfully, the wait for the next entry won’t be long because Whispers Under Ground is coming in May, 2012 (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound).