Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lovers of #London (and #magic) read these books! #Aaronvitch

Back in 2011 my brother recommended a new novel to me, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.  From the first few pages I was hooked and the book along with the others in the series: Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground, Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer are now firmly on my recommend to everyone list and are probably absent from my bookshelves the most as I lend them to friends.

The books centre on the adventures of Peter Grant, an officer in the Met Police; who following an unexpected encounter with a ghost, is recruited into a small branch of the Met (The Folly) that deals with magic and the supernatural.  What is not to love about that premise?  My other half is in the Met and he informs little old excited me there isn’t such a branch, but would he know if there was…

Navigating the supernatural world of London is not easy.  Under the guidance of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Grant becomes the first English apprentice wizard in over 70 years and sets about trying to solve his case.

Our leading star is supported by an awesome cast, I won’t name them all but you can look forward to meeting the aforementioned DCI Nightingale, head of The Folly and last officially sanctioned English Wizard; Mama Thames, Goddess of the River Thames; Dr Abdul Haqq Walid, world renowned gastroenterologist and cryptopathologist; Beverley Brook, “daughter” of Mama Thames and goddess of a small river in South London and PC Lesley May, Grant’s ‘partner in crime’ so to speak in the MET police.  All of the characters featured in Rivers of London and Aaronovitch’s subsequent books are so cleverly created.  They come with a depth and history that intrigues and you can’t help but believe in them and for some of the more magical ones wished they existed in real life.

The non-magical world’s acceptance of “the less than normal side of policing” is for some people less than believable but we must remember in the world of The Folly there was a time when magic was recognised as a skill and used within law enforcement and beyond. This is not the magic of David Blaine, Derren Brown, Dynamo or even Paul Daniels, magic in Rivers of London is a science taught in Latin and studied at the highest level.

I have a particular love for books set in places that I know.  On moving to Kent I immediately looked up books based in my new area using them as a way to understand the lay of the land, the links between towns and villages.  For anyone who loves London then you will love Aaronovitch’s books.  You are taken into a world you know so well, to streets you probably frequent on a regular if not daily basis, to pubs and restaurants you drink and eat in.  In using real places, like many authors before him, Aaronovitch connects his reader to the story.  We might struggle to picture magic but we can all picture Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House.  Creating a world within a world is magically in itself and like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere Rivers of London will leave you with a sense of a hidden world within London.

Whether it’s the geography, the magic or the intriguing and rounded characters Ben Aaronovitch’s books are compelling, once you start turning the pages it is impossible to put the books down.  I only wish he could write them faster.

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Making up #stories going on #adventures

Five Children and It; a flash back to childhood.

There are certain children’s books that I challenge you to read and not find yourself with a smile on your face.  The simple sense of adventure and the innocent nature of the characters is for me the equivalent of a jolly good hug.   Five Children and It, The Railway Children, The Secret Garden, Swallows and Amazons, anything by Enid Blyton the list could go on.  There is something about these books which is quintessentially good for the soul, like a spring day with the sun out.  Although we know the children will conqueror there is no greater thrill than when the adventure turns sour.  As a child I feverishly turned the pages needing to read more and as an adult, having recently re-read Five Children and It, I still found myself caught up in the fun wondering how the next wish will go wrong and how the children will fix it.

As a child I like to think I was as adventurous as some of my friends from books, I certainly climbed enough trees looking for houses in their trunks and gateways to magical places at the top.  I had the freedom to roam spending many holidays on a family farm in Ireland and my cousins and I could lose ourselves for hours in the make believe and imaginary worlds we created.  The old lady down the road was probably unfairly cast as the wicked evil witch on far too many occasions and like in many of the books one of my younger cousins would always get scared and want to go home when they feared we strayed too far from the set boundaries.  On reflection to be fair nine times out of ten we had strayed too far, it took a lot longer to get home than we planned and we missed more than one dinner!  If I’m honest I still have an over active imagination at times, there is a house near us which for no specific reason I have nick named “The Great Train Robbery House” I’m convinced it’s the sort of place a gang of thieves would use as a hide out and cycle past it as quickly as possible as I don’t want to catch their attention.  It’s silly, I’m sure a perfectly normal family live there, but it brings excitement to my cycle home.

This freedom to roam and to make up stories is something I want to be able to give to any children I have in the future.  I want them to get muddy, to scrap a knee, to see pirates and bank robbers and spies in the people around them going about their daily activities.  But how do I do that? How do you foster a sense of adventure and freedom?  I may have to change tact when the time actually comes around but for now I believe my tool will be books.  A first step to taking their own adventures will be to join other children on theirs.  They’ll learn to be scared, they’ll learn that not every adult can be trusted; they’ll learn that sometimes things wrong.  And hopefully they’ll learn to open their eyes to the world around them and to explore and create the dreams and escapades they want.

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