I would argue that the ‘urban’ part of Urban Fantasy is just as vital to the story as the fantasy part. I mean, could you imagine Kitty Norville outside of the wilds of Denver, or October Daye in any place other then San Francisco? Or perhaps Kate Daniels doesn’t require the damp heat of Atlanta and Sookie Stackhouse would be the same story set outside of her backwater swamp? Does Harry Dresden really need Chicago? (No, LIAR, Yes are the only correct answers here). And so it is for Peter Grant; he belongs in London and London is his. As London is in the top five places I would like to visit someday, the book comes in to fill the Dream Vacation Bingo Slot.
This book is far more concerned with setting up the world building and characters that will occupy the life of Peter Grant, and so the plot is pretty simple. Something is murdering the citizens of London using magical aid and Peter is tasked with solving it. So this series is going to be firmly within the detective-novels-with-magic that a large part of urban fantasy, I’m ok with that. Peter is really, very new to magic. He’s also a brand new, just finished his apprenticeship, cop. His last day as an apprentice he’s tasked with watching a crime scene, and is approached by a ghost who tells him that he saw who done it. This is weird, but you know he goes with it. Somehow he draws the attention of London’s magical police force (being composed of just one person this is a bit odd but I imagine magic is involved) and becomes said magician’s apprentice. Bang presto, he’s a magic cop.
The story is quite engaging, but there were a couple of things that felt inadequately explained. It’s hard to be specific without spoilers but I’m not really satisfied with the way the murder wrap-up happened. I also got quite sick of the way female characters were introduced and described in the book. I get it, Peter is a heterosexual male, but boy did I get tired of hearing about women’s boobs, or buts with the occasional leg thrown in for spice. Despite that, it was a fun read.
Now here’s where I’m conflicted. About halfway through the book I learned that Aaronovitch has a kind of ugly history when it comes to interacting with women who have opinions about his books. After finishing the book I went looking for the conflict and it’s not good, but it’s not wretchedly horrible either. However, combining that behavior with my unease about the blatant male gaze in book one and I’m not 100% sure I willing to keep reading this series. So… I’m torn.