Pullbox Reviews: Rivers of London volume 8: the Fey & the Furious

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

A while back, I got my first look at Rivers of London in the collected trade, Water Weed (review here), compliments of the fine folk at Titan Comics. Like every good gateway drug (see, it’s a joke cuz the book’s about… okay, nevermind), this got me looking into the original novels written by Ben Aaronovitch. Now five novels in (just finished Foxglove Summer a couple days ago) I’ve had a blast with this series. Rivers of London is a fantastic urban fantasy that blends the supernatural with the more mundane police procedural, mixes in a fair amount of pop culture & humor, to create some seriously entertaining reads.

With The Fey & the Furious, volume 8 in a series of collected trades, the ongoing saga of currently suspended Police Constable & apprentice wizard Peter Grant takes the into the world of street racing. It isn’t the racing that gets Peter involved, but the contents a bag found in the boot (that’s trunk to you rowdy Americans) of the wrecked car. Following the trail of this particular racing ring, Peter is joined by river goddess Beverly, & “self-professed Muslim ninja” Sahra Guleed as they discover that the race isn’t always just about the speed. But when has anything involving the Fey been limited to only one thing?

Splitting the writing duties between them, Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel have been impressing the hell out of me in their adaptations of the novels to comics- or rather in their complete lack of comic adaptations. Refusing to stick to the rails, their comics have been included in and alongside of the novels, expanding the continuity instead of just coasting along behind it. In a recent interview with thePullbox, Andrew Cartmel said, “The novels are novels. Attempting to transform them into a visual medium like comics would always be a chore and run the risk of being second best. So original stories was a natural and obvious way to go.

(You can check out that interview in its entirety right here.)

In the series, Aaronovitch has created some of the most fully realized characters I’ve ever seen in fiction, and along with Cartmel these people have been beautifully carried over into comics. Peter Grant is a guy I’d love to sit down to have a pint or two with, although he might have to forgive my lack of appreciation for jazz music. I’m sure that with his love of sci fi & nerd culture in general, we’d still be able to find something to talk about. Throughout the series, you’d think that a character inspiring that level of connection with readers there would be some degree of wavering in the way he’s written. You’d be wrong. The two writers have developed an impressive level of communication between them and are able to hold onto what makes all these characters great from one medium to the next.

Building on the existing foundation, the work done by artists Lee Sullivan & Mariano Laclaustra brings the novels to the page perfectly. It should be noted again that I came into the books by way of the comics, so there wasn’t the normal amount of disconnect between my imagined versions of the characters and what was presented on the page. Still, everyone is drawn to fit Aaronovitch’s descriptions in the novels to a tee, and I can’t imagine anyone coming at this series from the other direction (books to comics) having any trouble with the transition.

Likewise in the environments. Fans who’ve already been into the books know that the Rivers of London series could feasibly double as a guidebook for anyone visiting the London area. With that in mind, Sullivan takes on the challenge of matching that level of detail here. Granted, London isn’t the featured setting for The Fey & the Furious, but there’s still more than enough work put into the backgrounds to give readers a sense of place. One final note as I’m glancing back through the book, the racing is a huge part of the story, and the artistic team nailed that sense of speed on the page. More than just the standard panel of hot rods with blur lines streaking behind them, there are some really imaginative shots from inside the cars giving a pretty good idea of motion.

The way everyone on this title has focused on making Rivers of London work as a whole series, complete & intertwined, is impressive. As a reader still catching up, I don’t know if I can put enough stress on the level of satisfaction I felt when I realized how closely Foxglove Summer, for instance, is tied into The Fey & the Furious. There are very few titles that make the transition back and forth as seamlessly as this one does.

Urban fantasy has many, many (so many) books for readers to turn to, but this one hits every mark for me. I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else what to read… but you should totally read this one, where CSI butts up against Supernatural and the fantastic lives side by side with the ordinary. And if this review has piqued your interest in any way, please be sure to hop over to my interview with writer Andrew Cartmel & artist Lee Sullivan for a few insights into the creative process.

Final Score: 12/13

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