Peter Grant: Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Moon Over Soho

Bane of Kings reviews the second novel in the urban-fantasy series that features Peter Grant as the main character, and is entitled Moon Over Soho, and is written by Ben Aaronovitch. This novel is published in the UK by Gollancz.

“Awesome, page-turning and action packed. Aaronovitch has improved from Rivers of London, and has given us an enjoyable and entertaining return to Urban Fantasy in London.” ~The Founding Fields

This review assumes that the reader has read the first novel in the series, Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US), before reading this review. Therefore there are spoilers for the previous novel, but none for this one. 

As soon as I’d finished Rivers of London, I wanted to read the sequel at some point. Heck, I even brought both at the same time. Rivers of London was an enjoyable, entertaining and fun trip into the world of what UK-set urban fantasy could bring to the table, and whilst it wasn’t without issues, the novel was certainly a good one. So, why did I take too long to read Moon Over Soho?

Well, that’s partly my fault, and now that I’ve finished the second novel in the Peter Grant series, all I can say is that I wish I’d got round to it sooner. Moon Over Soho is an improvement on Rivers of London, and there are many reasons why this is so. The novel is once again narrated entirely by Peter Grant, and as a whole, it is a really good read. Check out the plot from Goodreads:

The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.Body and soul—they’re also what Peter will risk as he investigates a pattern of similar deaths in and around Soho. With the help of his superior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, and the assistance of beautiful jazz aficionado Simone Fitzwilliam, Peter will uncover a deadly magical menace—one that leads right to his own doorstep and to the squandered promise of a young jazz musician: a talented trumpet player named Richard “Lord” Grant—otherwise known as Peter’s dear old dad.

So, Jazz is a thing that’s not often explored in Urban Fantasy, or for that matter, Fantasy at all. There are some interesting things that Aaronovitch has brought to the table, including my ultimate favourite, Jazz Vampires. Continuing on from the ending of Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho flows brilliantly on from the first novel. The pacing is the same sort of structure, the prose is still there, and you can tell that Aaronovitch’s novels are part of the same series.

Peter Grant is a wonderful character. Although he may fit in to the trope of ‘occult detective’, and he may not be as good as a character as Harry Dresden, he’s certainly a strong character, and whilst there are things that at some point may seem to let the novel down, it’s worth reading because he’s there. There’s another good thing about Aaronovitch’s characters, he’s not afraid to put them through their paces. Unlike other Urban Fantasy authors, he makes bad stuff happen to them, in particular – Leslie, who suffered at the end of Rivers of London, and proves that magic can’t sort out everything.

The mystery, whilst may seem a bit rushed towards the end, is well thought out. The world building is there, and as is the character development. The Police is also explored in more detail, and the author has clearly done his research into making them authentic as possible. The action is well-written as well, which is always a plus and keeps the character hooked into the novel.

Aaronovitch has learned from his mistakes in Rivers of London, and has not repeated them in Moon Over Soho, which is a very good thing indeed. Although, whilst there are info-dumps on the way that the Police Force works occasionally, it’s nowhere near as bad as Rivers of London, and it’s pretty enjoyable as a whole. It seems that I must look into more of the British Urban Fantasy authors, as in particular I’ve heard good things about Kate Griffin and Mike Carey – I really want to get stuck into their urban fantasy series. I also reckon that fans of those novels, as well as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, will find Ben Aaronovitch a joy to read.

The narration of Moon Over Soho is superb, and Aaronovitch continues to show the reader that you won’t want to miss this. I’d also like to point out the cover art, and that it matches wonderfully with the style created by Rivers of London, and is one of those that draws you in, whilst not being over-the top. I much prefer the British cover Art for Moon Over Soho, over the American one, which you can see on your right.

Although there isn’t as much action happening in the UK Cover art, it’s a wonderful thing to look at, with Gollancz implying that London does have some magic in itself. Del Ray, the US publisher, are going for a massive in your-face approach, showing you right from the start who the main character is, and that he can do magic. It’s also good to see that they have the same title now, which was a thing that irked me about Rivers of London / Midnight Riot. Why should the title of the novel change just because different editions were published in different countries? After all, Rivers of London is a much more attention-grabbing title than Midnight Riot, in my opinion at least.

Verdict: 4/5

Peter Grant Novels: Rivers of London/Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground (June 2012)

Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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