Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch is the first in an ongoing urban fantasy series set in contemporary London. It's been recommended to me by several people over the years and I just got around to reading it now because the series as a whole was shortlisted for a Hugo Award. I'm glad I finally read it, and I can see why people have been recommending it to me.

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Rivers of London follows a London policeman from when he finishes his probationary uniformed stint and as he moves on to his next assignment, narrowly avoiding being permanently assigned to paperwork. It all begins when he sees a ghost after a murder and starts to become aware of the supernatural world. As it turns out, the Metropolitan Police have a supernatural division and that's where he ends up, more or less, trying to solve a series of magic-influenced murders with his new boss.

The tone of the book put me in mind of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett — in many ways the humour of the former and the London-ness (Ankh-Morpork-ness) of the latter. It was an entertaining read and it was partly the voice of Peter, the first person narrator, that kept me turning pages. The only negative in the writing style was the frequency with which Peter mentions being attracted to various women and also their breasts and/or his penis, but it wasn't too frequent and didn't by any means ruin the book for me.

I also enjoyed the slightly different take on the urban fantasy side of things — although it's possible I feel that way due to not having read enough urban fantasy books. A significant side plot deals with the... rulers of the river Thames and its tributaries (hence the title) and it provided some entertaining additional flavour.

I already have the next few books in the series waiting for me, and I intend to keep reading sometime in the near future (possibly after I've dug myself out of my reviewing backlog a little). I enjoyed Rivers of London and I recommend it to anyone who has even a passing enjoyment for urban fantasy and humour (especially British humour).

4.5 / 5 stars

First published:
Series: The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series book 1 of 6 so far
Format read: ePub
Source: purchased several years ago and also in the Hugo voter packet — I'm not actually sure which version I read

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