Saturday 22 November 2014

Hidden by Benedict Jacka, and Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Hidden is the fifth in Jacka's entertaining Alex Verus series concerning a magician in present-day London (the first four having been previously reviewed on this blog).  As usual, the story picks up where the last one left off with only a short time lapse; this is one series which must be read in the right order, anyone who plunges straight into Hidden without reading the earlier stories will frequently be baffled.

This time the focus of the plot is on Anne, the Life Mage who has appeared in earlier volumes, and we learn a great deal more about her history, personality and motivations as Alex battles to rescue her from the memorable shadow realm of Sagash, an equally memorable Dark Mage. Meanwhile, rumours are circulating about the reappearance of Richard Drakh, the formidable Dark Mage who used to be Alex's Master and still terrifies him.

The author continues to manage the difficult trick of maintaining what was so enjoyable about the first of the series (Fated, in case you're thinking of making a start) while introducing enough new elements to maintain the level of interest. A must-read for all of those who have enjoyed the series so far. Now I'm just waiting for the next one…


Moon Over Soho is the second of this author's Rivers of London series (the first, also called Rivers of London, having been reviewed here last December), and is also concerned with sorcery in present-day London. The hero and viewpoint character in this instance is Peter Grant, a police detective constable who turns out to have a potential talent for magic and finds himself assigned to a special unit, consisting of Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale and himself. Their purpose is to investigate crimes which appear to have a magical element, and Nightingale is both Peter's boss and his teacher in practicing magic.

The second novel continues the story from where it was left at the end of the first, and offers the same combination of expertise about London (always fun to recognise places mentioned and think "yep, been there"), what appears to be realistic police inside knowledge, and cynical deadpan humour. This time, one of the magical criminals is (loosely) a woman who has an extra set of teeth in a location which is a man's worse nightmare, while others suck the life out of jazz musicians to keep themselves young.

There are differences between the socerous scenarios developed by the two authors: Aaronovitch's London has very few magicians and these generally act as individuals, although there are river gods and other divine beings. In Jacka's version the city has many magicians, with a substantial heirarchical organisation. Both are enjoyable reads but Aaronovitch's stories are rather more gorily horrific.

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