So today I’m writing up a novella in a series of novels, and a novel in a series of novellas.
The novella is Ben Aaronovitch’s What Abigail Did That Summer, which is a little side story in his Rivers of London series. As you’d think from the title, this isn’t a Peter Grant story, but instead features Abigail (who we’ve seen in previous novels) dealing with a smaller case. It’s a good installment—the story is standalone, and Abigail works well as a protagonist (and unlike the protagonist of The October Man, doesn’t feel like a clone of Peter). If you’ve read this far in the series, you’ll want to keep reading for this.
The novel is P. Djeli Clark’s Master of Djinn, the first novel in the universe kicked off in shorter works (“A Dead Djinn in Cairo” and The Haunting of Tram Car 015). I loved both of those earlier stories, and the universe—one where magic came back to the world in Egypt, resulting in an overthrow of its colonial occupiers and the rewriting of world politics—is fascinating.
The good news is that the series works just as well at novel length. In some ways, really, even better—having the extra room of a novel gives Clark the chance to let Cairo breathe a bit, to let us see more of it than just the handful of people and places that we need for a novella-length plot.
The one downside to this story is that it does rely on some idiot plotting, where the protagonist—a super-brilliant, famous supernatural investigator—completely and utterly fails to see some things that are super-obvious to the reader, and that should have been obvious to her, too. It’s always nice when you as a reader can feel a little smart, but annoying when you’re just waiting for the hero to catch up to something that didn’t require any major deductive leaps on your part.
Still, though it’s a flaw, it’s not a book-killer to me. As in his shorter works, Clark writes with tons of forward momentum, and this was one of those books that I kept picking up with every free moment. Combine that with an interesting setting and characters, and I’ll forgive some flaws of plotting. Recommended.