Pullbox Review: Rivers of London: The Fey & The Furious #2

Not the last pop-culture reference you’re gonna see in this series…

The award-winning urban fantasy series Rivers of London continues a tale of fast cars and fairy queens, from series creator Ben Aaronovitch! Deep undercover in the street racing big leagues, can wizarding cop Peter Grant keep up with the competition in his clapped-out car – or does he need an upgrade? A canonical story, set after bestselling novel Lies Sleeping!

Peter Grant, formerly of the London Metropolitan Police Force and current wizard in training, is really good at getting into trouble… hence the suspension behind the previously mentioned “formerly”. He’s been asked to look into something on the side of the weird, which happens to be his side of the world. Looking into events behind the death of a known illegal race enthusiast, Peter has become entangled in the world of Fast cars and Furious… look, you get it right? It’s right there in the title. What may have been missed in the cleverly veiled reference in the name of the book is the use of the word Fey. With ties to a supernatural smuggling operation and the involvement of the Elves of London, Peter has gathered his allies- girlfriend and pregnant river goddess Beverly Brook, London cop & self-professed “Muslim ninja” Sahra Guleed, & mystical swordsman Michael Cheung- to find out just how deep the NOS infused plot goes.

I’m still fairly new to Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, a world of mystic mayhem and old fashioned police work, but I feel pretty safe in assuming the mantle of “fan”. Since being introduced to his unique urban fantasy world through Titan’s comic series, I’ve made my way through three of the eight novels, with the fourth queued up and ready to go. What’s awesome about the series is the way Aaronovitch takes the world of the supernatural, and weaves it seamlessly into the world we live in. Mixed in with all of that is a very solid sense of the police procedural and a veritable tourist’s guide to London (unless you live there already, in which case it might be a little less informative… do we have any readers out there in the U.K? Give us a shout).

Another great aspect of Aaronovitch’s writing, and it holds true in both the novels and comic series, are his host of mostly relatable characters- “mostly”, because I still haven’t quite figured Molly out. He writes them like they’re people, living and breathing, paying bills and watching football on the telly. The dialogue is among the best I’ve ever read, coming across as very natural, with the kinds of conversations you probably have every day. Try and keep a running count of the pop culture references bandied about, particularly on the nerdier side of things (just take a look at the cover title again… also keep in mind that Star Wars is one of Peter’s favorite movies). Ben Aaronovitch revels in seeding his characters with the believability that many of their situations lack, and he does with skill and wry humor.

Focusing in on the comics, the artistic team of Mariano Laclaustra & Color-Ice takes the world created by Aaronovitch and gives it shape. In a medium flooded with superheroes and gods walking the earth, Rivers of London is more about the regular folk out living their lives. Okay sure, some of those “regular folk” are river goddesses and fae royalty, but even so there’s a decided lack of over the top character design that lends believability to some pretty unbelievable things. Interestingly, I’ve found that when talented comicbook artists are called on to illustrate average looking people wearing everyday clothes, there’s often a bit of difficulty where characters look stiff or uncomfortable. It tends to come across as though the lack of bulging muscles covered in spandex creates a disconnect between brain, pen, & paper. Not so with Laclaustra’s work. His characters lack much of that larger than life aesthetic, but don’t lose any of the “bodies in motion” nature of folk walking or even just standing around. Also, there’s a great attention to detail paid to facial features, which carries much of the load in conveying emotion in the book’s quieter moments. Color-Ice (honestly, I don’t know if that’s a single person or not…) fills in whatever gaps might have been left by Laclaustra, giving the world flare… often literally in a story where magic gets tossed around now and again. In this particular issue, where much of the book features a nighttime street race, this team does a great job of injecting motion, a sense of speed, & occasionally impact. Taking another look at the finer details, I’m doubly impressed at the little touches: Sahra Guleed scowling at her rearview mirror as the headlights of the car behind her hit her eyes, the glow coming off of a notepad to illuminate its user’s smile (probably watching an epic fail video… ironic considering he’s a passenger in a race car), the look of glee on Beverly’s face as Peter passes another racer. These are all things that really have nothing to do with the story, but all serve to add to it.

Fans of urban fantasy, where elves and wizards live and walk among us in the modern era, doing their best to make their way as best they can, should absolutely give Rivers of London a read. All of it, including this chapter in the ongoing saga. And if you don’t really want to dive into a running series, there’s no pressure. Each installment is written to include all of the info you need to read it as a standalone story. Just pick your poison, sit back and enjoy. I’m just obsessive-compulsive enough to need to take it all in… for better or worse.

Final Score: a high speed, fuel injected, crash test dummy mangling 10+

Click here to order the 1st boxed set (hint: Great Christmas present!)

 

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