The Rivers of London series is one of my favourites being a London based urban fantasy centring around DC Peter Grant, a copper who back in the first book got himself mixed up in magic and seconded to the Metropolitan Police’s covet magic division “The Folly”. We’re now at the eighth full length novel in an increasing detailed series – we have offshoots in other countries (The October Man in Germany), graphic novels, and a sense of a slowly building world in which magic is returning.
At the end of the last book Peter was suspended from the police and we start this one with him working in security for a Silicon Roundabout tech firm (a hybrid of your worst mental impressions of Google, Facebook, and Tesla). But all is not necessarily as it seems…
Someone’s stolen a punchcard associated with Charles Babbage and Ada Augusta Lovelace that needs a complex device to play and no-one’s quite sure what it does but it probably needs The Mary Engine – a magical version of the Difference Engine – to work. It’s looking like this is related to a covert project at the firm Peter is working at that appears to involve an AI that passes the Turing Test.
This book is absolutely great for geeks of all flavours – we have our usual magic (Peter’s girlfriend Beverley is still a river goddess and pregnant, other rivers turn up) and then we ramp that up with technomage content like magically powered drones, suspicious machinery and AI that may be less (and/or more) than it seems. The firm at the heart of the story is also awash with geekery with lots of Hitchhikers references (it’s called The Serious Cybernetics Corporation), role-playing games, and general fandom nods. We also have the introduction of some more American mages – known as The Librarians – which absolutely felt like a nod to the SyFy series particularly as they were based out of the New York Public Library.
As ever, I loved this book for its sense of place as much as anything else. This felt 100% London to me – in reading it I knew exactly where Peter was walking in the area around Old Street, the way people behaved also just felt right. And also in terms of the open and liberal London I love. There’s an interesting character at Serious who is first identified as being a short, white woman and then introduces themselves as Victor – I absolutely loved that Peter from that point on never misgendered the character or made any assumptions (a great quote later on is when Peter wanted to check someone was the right orientation for Victor and when asked what that was just said “The one that’s facing in your direction”).
It’s not a place to start reading but if you haven’t yet I’d really just recommend this series for any fan of urban fantasy, or just modern London as it’s a fun read.