Peter Grant is a damn delight. I hadn’t gone very far in the book when I thought, “OMG, I like him!” I generally start books thinking I’m going to like the protagonist, but this was an extra special like.
Peter Grant is just finishing his probationary period as a Constable in the London Metropolitan Police. He has dreams of fancy cars, suits, and telling perps “you’re nicked.” But instead he’s going to be making a “valuable contribution” doing paper work. Until he interviews a ghost witness and is found ghost hunting by Detective Cheif Inspector Nightengale, Britain’s last wizard.
With that, he becomes a Magician’s apprentice and Constable to DCI Nightengale. Peter is cheery, practical, devious and curious. He is not a brooding hero, or a foretold prodigy. Grant’s London is a diverse mix of cultures and history. By leaning into the diversity, Aaronovitch has given Grant and his world richness and complexity.
It’s a myth that Londoners are oblivious to one another on the tube; we’re hyper aware of each other and are constantly revising our what-if scenarios and counterstrategies. What if that suavely handsome yet ethnic young man asks me for money, do I give or refuse; if he makes a joke, do I respond and if so, will it be a shy smile or a guffaw? If he’s hurt in a fight, does he need help? If I help him, will I find myself drawn into a threatening situation, or an adventure, or a wild interracial romance? Will I miss supper? If he opens his jacket and yells “God is great,” will I make it down the other end of the carriage in time?
Midnight Riot sets up a lot of story and outlines a world that will undoubtedly build over the next 6 books. The first two thirds of the book moves at a leisurely, though pleasing pace. Peter begins to learn magic, and applies his knowledge of the sciences to the process. Grant’s relationships and the book’s mystery take shape. The final third is more of a torrent with everything, even the bad plans going wrong.
Aaronovitch has written a book that incorporates urban fantasy, science, mystery and history with a charming main character who holds it all together.
One thing I’m not sure of is how Aaronovitch writes women. He isn’t in Butcher’s “all the women want me” territory, but he’s close. I’ll be interested to see how things go in the next books.