Peter Grant (ROL) Love
I was thinking recently about why I love Peter Grant. I discovered Rivers of London when I was really craving an urban fantasy series, because I like urban fantasy, but nothing I tried out fit the bill. Everything seemed to follow a particular template where the hero (male or female) solved every problem by intimidating someone with a gun, or a magic spell, or blackmail, or the sheer force of their macho. And these same narratives seemed to emphasize the hero’s deep inner pain to an absurd degree. (I actually love an angsty longsuffering hero, but part of what makes a proper angsty longsuffering hero is that they don’t moan on and on about their pain. Especially when I’m also supposed to believe that they’re ultra-macho.)
Then I came across Rivers of London. Peter Grant immediately won me over simply by being a grownup. He cooperates with others. He acts decisively when necessary, but his first instincts are not to engage in violence. He doesn’t instinctively measure everyone he meets in order to decide if he can take them out.
I know I’m speaking to what’s wrong with the competition rather than what’s specifically awesome about this series, so I ought to at least mention Peter’s snarky humor, creative worldbuilding, an interesting cast, and great use of an urban setting. Or the way anyone can learn magic if they study hard enough, in contrast to so many stories that rely on inborn talent. Or the humor and fascination of watching Peter insist on scientifically investigating magic in the face of his mentor’s skepticism. Or a host of other things. But honestly, the simple fact of Peter acting like an adult was the first thing to win me over.
Peter’s most dramatic actions often come when he’s defending other people. Take the evac scene near the end of Broken Homes, for example. Peter knows there’s a bomb in the building he’s in, and he’s been ordered to safety. Instead he goes door to door, warning people, not knowing how long he has. Not everyone believes him or will listen, so Peter measures out the seconds, thinking both of his own life, and of every other person who he hasn’t warned yet. He’s terrified, but he just keeps going.
Six books in and I don’t remember ever seeing Peter kick ass in a fight. Maybe he did and it just slipped my mind. In-universe, he’s growing more and more powerful, but he’s also up against powerful enemies. From outside the universe, it’s pretty clear that Aaronovitch is rewarding readers who want a different type of heroism than mere ass-kicking. I imagine it will come eventually, and I imagine I’ll really enjoy it. But along the way, there will have been a host of scenes like Peter organizing the evacuation, or Peter stealing an ambulance and driving into a river to save someone’s life despite knowing he’s going to look like an idiot and end up in trouble.