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Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
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Book Name: Rivers of London (UK) Midnight Riot (US)
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Publisher(s): Gollancz
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Release Date: August 25, 2011

“The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city and it’s falling to me to bring order out of the chaos – or die trying.” – Police Constable Peter Grant in Rivers Of London.

All great fiction mirrors the world we live in. It’s not often one can say that about an urban fantasy novel, but such is the case with Rivers Of London. In the book, a spirit of pure anarchy takes over normal people living in the city, either individually or en masse, inciting them to acts of riot and violence. As we all watched London burn recently, fantasy became reality as mindless fools ran rampant through the streets. If only we could blame a supernatural force for the devastation, it would make life so much simpler, but unfortunately, we have no such excuse for the violence committed to one of the world’s greatest cities.

London is a magical place. You can feel the history beating beneath its streets no matter where you go. It sprouted along the Thames sometime in the 2nd Century and continues to grow to this day, built on the blood, sweat and dreams of all who have lived there and the seven million that still call it home today. It’s a place where beauty surrounds you but a look in the wrong direction can get you a punch in the face. That juxtaposition of magic and danger has always existed in its streets and probably always will. Ben Aaronovitch has used that essence of London and built the foundations for a wonderful new series.

He just slants the reality of the city enough so you can see hiding in the shadows the various ghosts, ghouls and vampires that are battling for the soul of London. He takes you on a journey into the dark places that we all try to ignore while introducing you to the gods of the Thames and its estuaries as they go about their lives in the modern world.

Police Constable Peter Grant is guarding a murder scene when a ghost approaches him with an eye witness account of the crime and suddenly a whole new career path opens up for him, saved from a tedious desk job, as he becomes the apprentice to the last wizard in England. Inspector Nightingale takes Grant under his wing and begins teaching him magic as they try to prevent more killings. As their investigation progress, Grant discovers an even bigger turf battle is taking place over a feud that began when London was born.

Rivers Of London is a classic British police procedural blended with a unique twist of urban fantasy in so far as it replaces the expected testosterone with intelligence and the angst with wit. Peter Grant’s wide-eyed policeman approaches his new reality with a wonderful Britishness, often more concerned about how to make a move on a female colleague than the fact he’s just had tea and cake with a two thousand year old deity. He’s a thoroughly nice chap, pragmatic in his approach but who you can tell is having fun despite it all.

I originally turned down the opportunity to read Rivers Of London when a free preview copy was offered to me at last year’s New York Comic Con, as I was put off by the US cover of a mysterious man, wielding a fireball in one hand and a gun in the other. Underneath was the alternate title of Midnight Riot, thus I was expecting a typical urban fantasy slug fest.

Rivers of London (US cover - Midnight Riot)

I’m glad I changed my mind. There may be vampires but they certainly are not of the sparkly variety and the love scenes are suitably awkwardly English. And, if a chat over a cup of tea will bring about a happier resolution than a brawl, then Grant will put the kettle on.

Coming from a television background and the adventures of Doctor Who, Aaronovitch writes in a very cinematic way. You can see the blood flowing down the Thames amid the cultural melting pot of the city. He does tread similar territory to that explored by Neil Gaiman in Neverwhere with the personification of parts of London and one could imagine Dresden working away at similar cases on the other side of the pond, but it doesn’t feel like a rehash of either. Deep down, amidst the murder and the mayhem, the anarchy and the supernatural, Aaronovitch has written a love letter to the wonder of London, reminding us of the magic that lives there, all the while warning us to keep an eye out for its nasty side.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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One Comment

  1. Overlord says:

    Great Review Mike! 🙂

    We are reading this novel for November’s Book Club Read!

    If you are interested in joining in, visit the forums and sign up:

    http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/(november)-rivers-of-london/who-is-reading-along-in-november-)/

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