3 August 2023

#Review - Winter's Gifts by Ben Aaronovitch

Cover for book "Winter's Gifts" by Ben Aaronovitch. A hand drawn map showing a wilderness and lakeshore. Resting on it is an FBI badge.
Winter's Gifts (Rivers of London novella)
Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz, 8 June 2023 
Available as: HB, 224pp audio, e  
Source: Purchased
ISBN(HB): 9781473224377

Winter's Gifts is a whole story about FBI Special Agent Kimberley Reynolds, who met Peter Grant in Lies Sleeping (he doesn't really appear in Winter's Gifts which is set whole in the USA, although Kimberley does get some remote assistance from him).

Events kick off when a retired agent phones in to warn that something is amiss in a remote town. Agent Reynolds is assigned to the case, but by the time she reaches Eloise, Wisconsin the town is buried in unseasonal amounts of snow - and ex Agent Henderson is missing...

This was a fun addition to the Rivers of London-verse, marking a first, I think, for Aaronovitch as he addresses the legacy of contact between his European-tradition magicians, their art codified by Isaac Newton, and the practices of Indigenous peoples. (A first for the books - I think there was a brief allusion to something similar in one of the comics, but it was a passing mention).

It's a tricky subject to tackle, with obvious scope for getting things wrong (I can think of one very well known author who notoriously did) and I'm, obviously, not able to judge the result but I do think that Aaronovitch treads here with a great deal of respect. he makes it abundantly clear that the clash of traditions is explicitly a colonial one (and one in which the British don't of course have clean hands) and a thing which isn't done and dusted but has serious consequences in the present day.

That said, Aaronovitch also gives us here an exciting, humorous and well-designed adventure for a main character - Kimberley - who is brave, intelligent and resourceful. 

And she needs to be. This story has the usual mystery aspect to it - working out what is going on before one is swallowed up by it is essential - and a slightly otherworldly logic to things so that finding a solution isn't just a matter of action but of negotiation, understanding and compromise. While Kimberley may not be as able as Peter at magic (or actually able at all) she is well endowed with these abilities - as she variously demonstrates in dealing with superiors, sources and prickly local law enforcement.

She's also well up for the struggle for survival which occupies the final third of the book, a struggle against not only the supernatural but also extreme weather. The book has a thrilling conclusion, and I hope to see Kimberley back for further adventures.

All in all an excellent addition to this series.

For more information about Winter's Gifts, see the publisher's website here

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