The Peter Grant series follows a policeman called Peter Grant who is a constable in the London Metropolitan Police. However, he also happens to be a junior wizard, in apprentice to a wizard much older than he is. He joins a department of the London Met dedicated to investigating anything that could be considered supernatural. The result is a blend of crime and urban fantasy that plays like a mystery genre novel. I'd compare it to Neverwhere in as far as both are fantasy stories set in London, except that the similarities end there. Well, apart from the fact that they are both really good.
There are six novels in the series so far (Rivers of London, Moon over Soho, Whispers Underground, Broken Homes, Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree) as well as a few companion graphic novels. Rivers of London is known as Midnight Riot in the USA.
Getting to read about London is a very high point for me. Ben Aaronovitch knows the city inside out and has done a lot of research, and I love to find out more about one of my favourite cities. As someone who has a cursory knowledge of London, I like it when I can picture the action taking place in a location I’ve been to. Aaronovitch also did his research into the inner working of the Met, to such an extent that many real-life coppers have expressed surprise that he isn’t a copper himself.
The series celebrates the diversity of London amazingly well. To do anything less would be an injustice to London itself, as one of the most diverse cities in the world. Our protagonist himself is mixed-race, in one of the books we meet a police officer called Sahra Guleed who describes herself as a “Somali Muslim ninja” and Peter often gets help from people who live on his old estate, many who have non-British ancestry. But nowhere is this more beautifully shown then in the two Gods of the Thames. One is a Nigerian Goddess who moved to London in the 60’s and one is known as “The Old Man of the Thames” who was in charge back when London was Londinium, Roman settlement. It really is the meeting of both sorts of London, the old, historic London and the modern cosmopolitan city.
The series uses shout-outs liberally, but they aren’t as obnoxious as they could be, much of which is due to how wide-ranging the references can be. Part of the joy is in recognising a shout-out when it’s made. They run the gamut from the predictably common references to a series as popular as Harry Potter (given the premise of the series, it’s had to avoid) to obscure in-jokes about more popular works (the sort where you would have to know the work well to get the joke) to altogether obscure works. Since Peter is an avowed geek, the references come from every aspect of geek culture, too.
These books always keep you on your toes with twists and turns around every corner. You will be wondering who’s the next person to hide secret magic powers, what supernatural creature Peter will run into next, and where the next fae enclave is.
I do have to talk about one aspect of these books I don’t like – scenes of a sexual nature. I’m not a big fan of sex scenes in any book, and how they are written in this series makes me feel uncomfortable. I tend to gloss over these pages as fast as I can.
I recommend this series to anyone with a love of fantasy, especially urban, anyone who loves a good detective mystery, and anyone who likes stories set around London.