What Abigail Did That Summer

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Series: Rivers of London #5.3 (A standalone novella, but best if one reads the full series first.)

My rating: 3.4 stars

Talking fox companions, magic, and a smart girl.

Abigail is a biracial London girl whose uncle works as a wizard on the police force. Using tips she learned from her uncle – magical and investigative skills, Abigail attempts to solve the mystery of missing local teens, with help from a team of talking spy foxes.

I’ve only read the first book in the Peter Grant series. I plan to eventually read the next one, but haven’t gotten there yet. Abigail doesn’t show up in that first book, so while I do have a modicum understanding of the alternate London magic system, there was a lot of background here that I wasn’t familiar with. Some bare basics are explained, enough for an uninitiated reader to read this as a standalone, but I’m sure I missed several nuances.

As with the Peter Grant books, the alternate London contains lots of creative magics and fantastic world building. This is a good original story, with a confident young female lead, intended for a younger audience.

Abigail is a smarter than average 13 year old girl. A little too precocious, I think, but not impossibly so. She has a very logical way of thinking that comes across in a manner that can appeal to both teen and adult readers.

The author attempted to diversify the characters. Abigail is black and faces some racist incidents. There’s a good mix of characters of different cultures and skin colors, just like one would expect to find in the cultural melting pot that is London. On the other hand, I felt sometimes that the racial identifications were a bit too strong and unnecessary. I often prefer to leave details about minor characters half drawn, so my imagination has room to color it in. Mentioning every character’s racial identity and nationality made it feel forced and heavy handed. I did like the diversity at the beginning, but it went too far and came across too strongly. But that was a very minor detraction. Abigail’s story offered a great perspective on certain racial disparities a girl of her age and character could face.

I wasn’t so enthused about the plot. It was interesting, but only borderline retained my interest. It could’ve used more action or suspense… I like the magic system and the world building. The character development was excellent. But I wasn’t invested in the plot, and now that I’ve finished the book, I’m happy to move on and forget about it.

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