Book Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

9317452On our trip to London, my husband and I stocked up on books. Kind of a strange souvenir choice, but hey, we’re bibliophiles. We tried to focus on books that were written by British authors, novels we couldn’t get as easily in the United States. My first bookstore find was at a ridiculously beautiful, multistory shop called Hatchards.

About the Book

My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – We do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I’m dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden – and that’s just routine. There’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying. Which, I don’t mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.

My Thoughts?

This book was… okay. The series follows a concept very similar to that seen in my favorite series, The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. The main character, Peter, is essentially a British version of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, wizard and investigator. Peter has a very similar wry sense of humor and uses witty dialogue to move the plot along.

There were several things that bothered me about the story. Despite the humor of the main character, I wasn’t actually very fond of him as a person. Peter was attracted to a fellow police officer and close friend throughout the story, attempting to woo her to his bed. During his investigations, he becomes very attractive to another young woman (who happens to also be a magical being) and discusses making moves with both women. Peter also makes several racist comments regarding African men and women in the novel. Peter is mixed heritage, his mother being African and his father British, but the comments were highly unnecessary.

There were some plot issues as well. The pacing of the story was very choppy, skipping large patches of time with little explanation. There was also an incident with some vampires thrown into the middle of the story that was out of place and unconnected with the rest of the plot.

That being said, I did enjoy the book overall. The plot was intriguing, discovering clues and tracking evil shades to determine exactly what is causing random outbursts of violence all over London. There’s an interesting amount of British folklore and facts about London mixed into the novel, which was highly enjoyable.

Overall I’d give this book three out of five stars.  If you’re looking for an off-color, gritty detective novel with a splash of magic, give this one a try!


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