What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch: Review

It’s here! The newest book in my favourite book series. It’s a novella but the two previous novellas have both been decent, can this one be just as good?

Some information about this book:

  • Release date: March 18th 2021
  • Published by: Gollancz
  • Pages: 183
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Series: Rivers of London (Book #11, Novella #3)

Blurb:

Ghost hunter, fox whisperer, troublemaker.

It is the summer of 2013 and Abigail Kamara has been left to her own devices. This might, by those who know her, be considered a mistake.

While her cousin, police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, is off in the sticks chasing unicorns, Abigail is chasing her own mystery. Teenagers around Hampstead Heath have been going missing but before the police can get fully engaged, the teens return home – unharmed but vague about where they’ve been.

Aided only by her new friend Simon, her knowledge that magic is real, and a posse of talking foxes that think they’re spies, Abigail must venture into the wilds of Hampstead to discover who is luring the teenagers and more importantly – why?

What Abigail Did That Summer: A Rivers Of London Novella by [Ben Aaronovitch]
What Abigail Did That Summer cover

This installment in Ben’s brilliant Rivers of London series about a police officer called Peter Grant who investigates magical crimes and disturbances within London is the first time we have seen Abigail (Peter’s cousin) in her own adventure. Cock-sure of herself, full of sass but street wise with enough wisdom for the humans and the foxes, we begin to find out what Abigail did in the summer of 2013 while Peter was away in Herefordshire during the events of Foxglove Summer (Book #5).

Abigail has learnt that foxes can talk and they seem to like her and so spending her summer of school, making friends, she soon finds herself pulled into the curious disturbance of children from her manor. For real.

“We’re walking down to the east side of the Model Boating Pond because I reckon there’ll be fewer people to notice that I’m carrying a talking fox around my neck.”

I’m a huge fan of the Rivers of London novels after stumbling across it somewhere and I read the majority of them back to back a couple of years ago which is a big thing for me to do as I get bored but the imagination, the investigation and the combination of crimes and magic made for a brilliant story. The books themselves contain demon traps (magical booby traps), talking dead people, poltergeists, vampires, wizards, river gods and lots lots more. They’re generally set in London and this book is no different, setting it’s feet in the area of Hampstead Heath.

Reading this from Abigail’s point of view I always knew that everything would be “toned down” to match her stature. I wouldn’t expect to find Abigail facing off against armed criminals (magically or firearms equipped) or dealing with large deities, be them river or others, and to be fair to Ben, he has toned this down well but at a cost.

Meeting Ben in 2020 before Covid

Abigail finds herself dealing with problems suitable to her knowledge and abilities, kids going missing and the secretive foxes proving to be her allies while Peter was away, thus showing us (and herself) that she can handle business. The foxes themselves are cool secondary characters and I felt that Indigo was the perfect sidekick for Abigail to have with her during this story.

I thought the parts where there was action or the tensions were raised up were done well and the main threat in this story was a clever one. I wasn’t sure about the back story to this threat and if I’m honest, the parts revolving this threat were a tad confusing and in the end I didn’t worry about the details and just continued reading to enjoy the magical predicament Abigail was in since that is the highlight of the books for me, the cool magic.

As I’ve said, this is my favourite book series but I have to be honest in my reviews. I really wanted more, expected more even? Maybe Abigail could have stumbled upon people with guns carrying out a magical heist or something and set the foxes about to surveillance then bringing in Nightingale? The danger would have been grander but then so would have the pay off and excitement for long term fans. It was almost like this was a teens version of the Peter Grant novels I have come to love. I wanted more danger and I wanted more magic but the limits put onto Abigail by Ben meant that there was only so far she could have been pushed.

Abigail Kamara

In terms of conveying a young black girl in London with the lingo that the kids use today, Ben did a great job and I genuinely felt like I was reading this from the point of a teenage girl. Ben also pulled in new characters (Simon’s Mum) and the River Fleet who I’m sure will make further appearances in the stories he writes which only adds to the options he has for further stories since I felt False Value (Peter Grant #10) took the story into places that weren’t where I wanted it to go.

If you are a Peter Grant fan then you should read this. It’s not a bad book at all, far from it, but you might be left slightly hungry for more when you have finished it. I felt the Tobias Winter novella, October Man, had a bigger magic punch than this one did and only wished this had more action but in terms of character development and bringing Abigail into the fold, it did well. I just wanted more.

If you are not a Peter Grant fan and are reading this for the first time then I highly recommend you check out Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in USA) which is the first book in this amazing series which I can only describe as “Harry Potter joins the Police in London”. It is a series criminally underrated, full of Urban fantasy action with smart writing and devious enemies.

If you would like to add Rivers of London to your Goodreads, you can do so here

If you would like to add What Abigail Did That Summer to your Goodreads, click here

If you would like to purchase Rivers of London then you can do so at Broken Binding and get a free 5% off by using the code BLURB5.

You can purchase What Abigail Did That Summer here on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

If you like science fiction and fantasy books then consider joining The Oasis Discord here – it’s free and has a great community, buddy reads, community reads and much more!

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