My Very Quick Write Up of the WFC2013

Well then, it’s time for a write up of the World Fantasy Convention.

I think it’s important to note at this point that this was my first convention, world or otherwise, that is specifically centered around fantasy, and definitely my first coming at it with a professional interest in the industry and genre.

So I’m not really sure what I was expecting but boy howdy was I not disappointed!

It was a fantastic weekend (and I’m sure I bored my family when I got home with tales of panels and meeting new people), the panels were interesting, everyone was friendly and there was some really great other events on too. All of the publisher’s parties were great fun and it was just astounding to be in the same room with so many important and fantastic people! I won’t lie to you there was some slight hyperventilation to start with (hmm, perhaps from this point forward I’ll try to sound less like a fan-girl).

I feel like there’s almost too much to talk about! And regretfully I didn’t take any pictures (a couple of Patrick Rothfuss’ reading but they’re super blurry), well apart from all the books that had to be hauled homeward!

The panels were all very interesting, ranging from whether women can write legitimate martial fantasy (spoiler alert: they definitely can), how to follow up writing with that pesky second book, world building, short story writing and everything in between! So I’ve come out of the convention with loads of ideas and there was even a panel on editing and putting together a short story anthology (so keep your eyes peeled for some news like that next year…), and what it’s like being a small independent press.

The art dealers room I found very cool, especially as I seem to have an unusual fascination and love of how books are designed and the end product. So there was much snooping around the artist room to see what cover art there was an even some snooping with covers for something I’m now thinking about (see above bracketed hints).

That’s also one of the reasons that I’m so excited with the Bragelonne sample book with translated excerpts of some of their fantasy works. I always find that the French edition covers that I’ve found to be some of the most exquisite of those on the market and really bring elements of the story to life before you’ve even picked up the book.

In a lot of ways, for me, it was an eye-opener for some unsung aspects of the publishing industry, like the short stories, the anthology editors and the agents. I’ve come into contact with some of these in my short time in the publishing industry but it was also really nice to see them explored in such an accessible and excellent manner.

Everyone was really friendly and it was quite a quest if you wanted to find someone that wasn’t smiling (not that I did, mind you)!

On a personal  note I was thoroughly ecstatic to see Mr Patrick Rothfuss do a reading ( I’m going again to the Forbidden Planet one in London) and it was a phenomenal reading. Mr Rothfuss said he wasn’t sure if it worked well if it was read out, but I think my goosebumps can attest that it works just fine!

And listening to the authors and the panels on various aspects of writing really helps you appreciate so much more the dedication, effort and skill that goes into a truly wonderful piece of writing.

So that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject for now, no doubt I shall think of more later on and curse myself for not telling you about it! But, thank you for stopping by everyone, and I’m sure you can tell that from all the exclamation marks how excited I was/am by the convention!

Until next time: be well, be kind, and have fun!

Rivers of London Review

Okay, considering that I thoroughly enjoy The Dresden Files, I suppose it shouldn’t come as a shock that I enjoyed Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Another first person urban fantasy, magical detective novel, but this time set in London. For anyone reading in American it’s possible that you’ve seen it under the guise of the title: Midnight Riot. (As a side note, I personally much prefer the British cover for Rivers of London, for some reason the Midnight Riot just strikes me as the kind of cover you’d find on a children’s magic spy novel. But maybe that’s just me!)

I mean, take a look at it. It’s a superb cover

The story follows Peter Grant, a probationary constable as he finishes his two year probationary period and as he deftly avoids becoming a member of the Case Progression Unit (to quote Aaronovitch “we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to”) ends up being apprenticed to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the only wizard in Britain.

I think I got an extra dimension of enjoyment out of this book because I work in London. So whenever there was mention of somewhere I recognised, have walked past, or even the tube line I got a little thrill of excitement (it’s silly I know). And also because it seems to have some nice self-deprecating humour in it, and what good British citizen doesn’t enjoy some of that?

Anyway, I know you’re here for one reason and one reason only, you dirty scoundrels, for a book review! So let’s get to it!

Firstly, I want to talk about what stood out to me for this book, and that’s the writing style. It’s a first person narrative and isn’t overly verbose, if anything it’s the opposite. Slightly jarring at first, Aaronovitch’s writing style doesn’t dwell on every little detail, it doesn’t take the reader by the hand and guide them through the story with exquisite detail and imagery. The writing style is closer to what you would get if someone were actually telling you a story. I would like to say now, this is definitely not a bad thing and very well suited to the character and the story, it just took a little getting used to.

What I mean by that is that occasionally you’ll read sentences or paragraphs that skip over a sizeable chunk of time filled with activity. In a lot of books the reader might feel that this is cheating them of the narrative, but I think that in this particular book Aaronovitch has used this technique in a rather dashing fashion. But why? Because being a police officer often isn’t fun, isn’t adventurous and is in fact rather dull. Of course I don’t want to belittle what people involved in law enforcement do in any way, but it’s just not the sort of thing you want to read about in a story. So instead of reading laborious passages in which Peter Grant, the main character, sifts through CCTV footage or logs in to computer systems or what have you, Aaronovitch just gives us what we need to know. We don’t need to know what video files he was looking at, or which folder he delved into, but we find out what he did and what he found.

As well as this, Aaronovitch scatters his writing with humour and it all comes off in a deliciously wicked way. There are definitely chuckles to be had along the way as we follow our main character through London, the underground and dealing with supernatural creatures of one sort or another. Aaronovitch, I think, manages to capture something of British humour, the kind of thing that makes you give everyone a wide, cautious berth whilst simultaneously having a sense of fierce camaraderie.

The London that we find ourselves exploring along with Peter Grant is a fascinating mix of almost forgotten London mythology along with the exciting or humdrum life of mundane London (and by mundane here I don’t mean boring, it’s definitely not boring, just not magic). But within Rivers of London we only really get a glimpse of the magical London that Aaronovitch has created. On the rounds with Nightingale, through Peter Grant’s eyes we see ghosts, trolls and other magical beings that can’t be cleanly categorised. And with Peter Grant’s feet firmly planted within both the magical and the mundane world by the end of the novel, I most certainly look forward to seeing how London transforms itself in the coming books.

Conflict is key to most stories, and Rivers of London is no different. We are thrown straight in with it as the story begins with Peter Grant as he looks after a particularly grisly crime scene when all the other coppers have left. And then almost before anything else has a chance to happen, Peter Grant is whisked away under the wing of Inspector Nightingale to embrace the strange and uphold the peace. Aaronovitch keeps the story rolling and definitely picks up the pace as the story comes to its conclusion.

Overall, I would say that Rivers of London is a thoroughly amusing and enjoyable read with a little adventure, lots of suspense and plenty of action. Although the writing style can jar a couple of times in the first few chapters it quickly and easily facilitates the story and is an apt style to portray British ambivalence in all its forms. Of course due to the first person perspective there is a lack of overt dealings with the other character’s motives, but Aaronovitch is skilled enough to throw us hints via body language and Peter Grant is clever enough to suss out how people are feeling.

You will immediately be drawn into this story as the strange and supernatural immediately jump out from the page and draw you to the next chapter. The pace is always increasing as storylines intertwine, jump free and twist and turn all over place. I would strongly recommend this book as it is a thoroughly enjoyable read with unique story and a witty approach. 

So that’s it for now scribblers! I hope you enjoyed this review, and we’ll be back with some more excellent content soon! I know that the blog has been review heavy of late so hopefully is the next week or two we’ll be back to giving you a mix of tips, reviews and other thoughts!

In the meantime; be well, be kind, and have fun!