Dear Peter Grant, you are about to knock Harry Dresden off his pedestal. And that's not an easy thing to say for me, a devout Dresdenite. But this book was just that much fun.
Should I call myself a Grantite now? How about a hug then? Oh wait...
"For a terrifying moment I thought he was going to hug me, but fortunately we both remembered we were English just in time. Still, it was a close call."
How can a true nerd like me NOT love this book and its protagonist? Peter Grant, a wisecracking apprentice magician is not only incredibly funny, self-deprecating, non-misogynistic in the slightest, intelligent, and an actually good representation of a real early twenty-first century young man, but also has all makings of a natural-born scientist. He performs controlled experiences with his newfound magic, forms hypotheses that he proceeds to test, and applies scientific principles. He actually contemplates the nature and the origins of magic instead of just accepting it as a given. He is shown actually working on his skills, practicing them and experimenting with new approaches. And he talks science!
"I had jokingly developed my own scale for vestigia based on the amount of noise Toby made when he interacted with any residual magic. I called it a yap, one yap being enough vestigia to be apparent even when I wasn't looking for it.The yap would be an SI unit, of course, and thus the standard background ambience of a Central London pub was 0.2 of a yap (0.2Y) or 200 milliyaps (200mY)."
Peter Grant is hilarious, often in a dry, very much non-slapstick way. He is firmly in touch with the modern life, and it is seamlessly integrated into the novel. He also pokes fun at the things that in the hands of the less able writer than Ben Aaronovich would have come out as borderline offensive, but they work in this book. An example of this is Peter teaching his (very old) teacher not to refer to the 'ethically challenged' wizards as 'black magicians' since Peter, who is of mixed race, could technically be viewed as such - while explaining why he is reluctant to call Nightingale 'master'.
"When you're a boy your life can be measured out as a series of uncomfortable conversations reluctantly initiated by adults in an effort to tell you things that you either already know or really don't want to know."
Just like in the previous volume, we get more of the author's love for London and learn snippets about the city's history, often tragic. And I love it! I enjoyed the descriptions of Soho, Peter's opinions about different kinds of Londoners, and the entire atmosphere of a huge, thriving, very urban, multicultural city. London is definitely going on my to-visit-no-matter-what list - someday, when I actually have free time to do so.
'There's more to life than just London,' said Nightingale.
'People keep saying that,' I said. 'But I've never actually seen any proof.'
I liked what little I saw of Peter and Leslie's relationship in this book after Leslie's face was destroyed by magic in the previous book. I loved how supportive he is while at the same time avoiding the overt sentimentality or wallowing in guilt. And after the way this book ended - the best sorta-cliffhanger that I've read in the recent past, by the way - I cannot wait to see what happens to those two in the next book (which, of course, I have already bought with my birthday Amazon gift card).
"Every male in the world thinks he's an excellent driver. Every copper who's ever had to pick an eyeball out of a puddle knows that most of them are kidding themselves."
I enjoyed the short and apt descriptions of the British police system as well. While often detailed, they never seemed like info-dumps and were humorous enough to never let my attention falter. Aaronovich never glorifies police work, but he also does not follow the stereotype of 'big bad cops' that is so easy to fall back on. He makes his 'coppers' seem like real people with all the imperfections and idiosyncrasies and enough lovable qualities - basically real. While still poking fun at them, of course!
"It's a truism in policing that witnesses and statements are fine but nothing beats empirical physical evidence. Actually it isn't a truism because most policemen think the word 'empirical' is something to do with Darth Vader, but it damn well should be."
The plot of this book, while still leaving a bit to be desired, was tighter than that of the first volume (that, or I have gotten used to the world of this series). It was easy to follow, however, and in the end things turned out a bit different than what I expected - which is a reminder for me to not get all smug thinking that I know exactly what is going to happen and not to judge the characters prematurely (yes, I'm referring to Simone, who turned out whom I expected her to be, but the way it was revealed was unexpectedly touching and a bit heartbreaking as well. And Peter's reaction to the whole thing felt very much real.
Basically, I adored this book and had a great time reading it. Harry Dresden, you've got some serious competition! 4.5 stars for the sheer amount of enjoyment, and very high recommendation. I can't wait to see what the next book in the series brings!