Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London universe continues to expand with Winter’s Gifts, another novella set adjacent to the main narrative of the novels. While the German-set The October Man introduced a completely new character, Winter’s Gifts is narrated by a character that readers of the novels have met – the FBI’s Kimberley Reynolds. This means it has a different flavour to the Peter Grant narrated main novels. And being set in America, also picks up on some different threads of the supernatural.
FBI agent Kimberley Reynolds is called in to respond to a message from a former agent which mentions an ‘X-Ray Sierra India’ incident. This defunct code (reminiscent of The X-Files, for good reason) indicates something weird, and as the local specialist on weird (having spent some time in the UK with Peter Grant and his team), Kimberley is sent to investigate. Kimberley arrives in a small, snowbound town on the edge of a frozen lake which has been devastated by a freak weather event when thing start to get even stranger and more dangerous.
Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series has spent nine novels, a number of graphic novels and a few novellas building out a particular view of the supernatural. This includes creatures of the demi-monde, local spirits and charmed or cursed objects. In Winter’s Gifts, Aaronovitch brings this approach to America, and, in particular, the wars between the indigenous populations and the colonisers and how they could have been underpinned by magical practices. In doing so Aaronovitch maintains his approach to the supernatural but gives it a slightly different spin.
Kimberley provides a fresh new narrative voice into this world. Much more matter of fact and less pop-culture heavy than Peter Grant. She is less magical but much more au fait with a range of firearms (British police do not carry guns) which comes in handy in the narrative’s many horror-tinged action scenes.
Winter’s Gifts is itself a gift to long time readers of this series. A new story in a new locale with a side character taking her turn as protagonist. And powering the supernatural narrative is a reflection on the intergenerational impacts and trauma of colonisation and the repression of indigenous culture.