Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the first novel in the Peter Grant series, written by Ben Aaronovitch and published by Gollancz in the UK. It’s called Rivers of London in the UK, but goes by the name of Midnight Riot in the US. As I am UK based, I will be referring it as Rivers of London.
“Not often do you get a book that is amusing and original as this. Not to be missed.” ~The Founding Fields
Rivers of London was a novel that I mentioned on this post here, as being a novel that I probably should have got around to reading sooner but never did. So, when I saw a buy one, get one for half-price offer in my local WHSmith, I snapped it up along with the sequel, entitled Moon over Soho whilst I was going to see Mission Impossible 4 in January. And to be honest, I don’t know why I waited this long to read it. Although it’s not as dark as the Dresden Files, being a pretty light-hearted read, Rivers of London paints an interesting picture of magical London in a post Harry Potter world.
Ah. Now, speaking of Harry Potter, Rivers of London has been described as Harry Potter growing up and joining the Fuzz. (Hot Fuzz) However, this, if I’m being honest, is not what I’d describe it as a cross between, but nonetheless – don’t let that put you off, Rivers of London is still one really enjoyable read, and adds to the collection of urban fantasy novels that take place in London, putting Ben Aaronovitch alongside the ranks of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere), China Mieville (Un Lun Dun) Mike Carey (Felix Castor series), whose novels have all taken place in the capital city of England. However, does that mean that Rivers of London is as good as these titles? Well, I won’t be able to tell you, having only read a sample of Neverwhere, but it’s certainly an enjoyable read, despite a few issues that I had with it.
Meet Peter Grant, the main character of the series and our narrator, as we are thrust into event after event from his point of view, and we stick from his perspective throughout the entire novel. He’s a copper on the brink of joining the Case Progression Unit (“We do the paperwork so that the real coppers don’t have to”), but is saved from it when he finds himself talking to a Ghost who witnessed a mysterious murder. Naturally, this brings Peter to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And this is where the real story begins.
Rivers of London is a pretty amusing read, and one that I eagerly delved into to get a break from all the serious stuff that I’d been reading lately, such as Alastair Reynolds’ Blue Remembered Earth and Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear. The novel itself is also pretty original, so Aaronovitch gets a point there. Also, the pace is pretty well-rounded, as well as being pretty fast and action packed.
However, as much as I enjoyed Rivers of London, I found one or two major issues that I had with it. Issue Number One would be believability. When the characters (not just Peter, but also his flatmate, Lesley) are first introduced to the world of the supernatural, they seem unfazed and undisturbed by the fact that such things as vampires, water spirits etc exist, even if one has been trained by the Police. Also, there’s next to no emotion displayed by the characters in this novel. That’s another major flaw that I found with Rivers of London, and I hope that Aaronovitch can improve on these aspects with Moon Over Soho, the sequel.
On the other hand though, don’t be put off from what you’ve just read. Rivers of London is one of those books that will have a nice pace, as well as a fascinating look into London, which is another reason why I enjoyed Aaronovitch’s title. I spent a long time in the capital city of England, and am pleased as to how it’s described in this novel, and if you’re a fan of fantasy/urban fantasy, living in London – then what are you waiting for, head down to your local bookstore today and give it a go. You won’t regret it.
The characters in this book are quite likeable, and Peter Grant is an easy character to root for and get behind, although he isn’t quite as memorable as already established characters such as Harry Dresden. However, with the subsequent books in the series, he could be a definite one to look out for.
The Peter Grant Series: Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground