Fiction Reviews

Amongst our Weapons

(2022) Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, 406pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22666-1


There is a world hidden underneath this great city...The London Silver Vaults - for well over a century, the largest collection of silver for sale in the world. It has more locks than the Bank of England and more cameras than a celebrity punch-up.

Not somewhere you can murder someone and vanish without a trace - only that's what happened. The disappearing act, the reports of a blinding flash of light and memory loss amongst the witnesses all make this a case for Detective Constable Peter Grant and the Special Assessment Unit. Alongside their boss DCI Thomas Nightingale, the SAU find themselves embroiled in a mystery that encompasses London's tangled history, foreign lands and, most terrifying of all, the North! And Peter must solve this case soon because back home his partner Beverley is expecting twins any day now. But what he doesn't know is that he's about to encounter something - and somebody - that nobody ever expects...Effortlessly original, endlessly inventive, and hugely entertaining - step into the world of the much-loved, Number One bestselling Rivers of London series.

Crikey, counts fingers, this must be…7, 8, 9, yes, number 9 of the Rivers of London series (putting aside that there are also comics collected as graphic novels positioned between the novels as well as the novellas also sandwiched between the main books) and this is a major one in the life of our hero, Peter Grant, as there have been hints and foreshadowing in previous books that he is something more than a sorcerer’s apprentice, and apart from his place in the grand scheme of things he is about to become the father of demigods.

Amongst our Weapons brings together fantasy world-building, police procedural work and a sort of locked room mystery as Peter is summoned to The London Silver Vaults because a man called David Moore has been murdered by a flash of light while trying to commit a robbery from one of the silver shops in the Vaults, although Moore probably wouldn’t regard it as a robbery as he is trying to retrieve a puzzle ring which belonged to his ex-wife. The shop keeper knows nothing about this but before things can turn nasty, a flash of light burns a hole through Moore’s chest. As it turns out, Moore’s ex-wife, Althea, lied and has the ring after all, and Nightingale confirms that it is a magical puzzle ring, but even he doesn’t recognise the markings on it, and it is not long before the ring is stolen.

Thus a magical can of worms is opened as the plot progresses with secret groups, magical rings, avenging angels - which allows Peter to indulge in some Lord of the Rings references, as well as a smattering of Nazi occult beliefs, and some history titbits involving the Spanish Inquisition (and you can guess what remarks are made about this) and Oliver Cromwell, not to mention – gulp – a visit to the darkest North, i.e. near Manchester, and let’s not forget the little matter of Peter’s impending fatherhood.

Amongst Our Weapons is another enjoyable romp from Aaronovitch who continues to build and expand his fantasy world and injects fascinating facts and figures from our world into it, using his considerable knowledge of London and its history, I mean, how many people knew about the Silver Vaults? But it’s his treatment of the fantasy elements that really shines as he gives new twists to tropes like angels and magical rings. Apart from the world-building, the cast of characters grows larger with the introduction of some new ones, and the return of old ones, who reveal hidden depths; and of course, there is some major character development for Peter on the professional and personal front.

The novel is divided into daily sections which are further divided into 20 chapters, and it’s no real hardship that they are loooong chapters, given the liveliness of the prose, and I look forward to the next book in the series, and a forthcoming novella involving Nightingale’s adventures in old Harlem, and then there is the proposed TV series, if it ever happens, but meanwhile we have the books to enjoy.  Recommended.

Ian Hunter

See also Peter's take on Amongst Our Weapons.


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