Rivers of London – Good Read – J. E. Hopkins

My love for reading parallels my love for writing. Even though writing now takes most of my time, I still manage to read several books a month. I’ll be posting comments about the books I find interesting, which brings me to Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London.
I went looking for Rivers after I read a review of one of Aaronovitch’s later books in the series. I can’t recall where I saw the review; perhaps in the The Week, which is a great weekly news magazine.
I digress.
Rivers is the first in a series of now four books that tells the stories of Peter Grant, a London detective constable. Grant is also an apprentice wizard, assigned to a special unit of the London police. I typically enjoy dark fantasy novels that don’t include were-creatures, vampires, or any of the current gaggle of Twilight-spawned plot lines. While I didn’t encounter any of those beasts in Rivers, this is a light novel, certainly more than my usual read. It’s written with wit, cynicism, and a decent–albeit British–sense of pace. That’s all okay with me, but what kept me intrigued was the clever insinuation of magic into the background of “normal” contemporary life and an assembly of interesting gods and goddesses responsible for the various rivers that are part of London. Yes, there are magical evil-doers also, but I enjoyed most the social and cultural complexities of trying to maintain order among the magical shadows.
This is a “citizens are clueless about what’s going on around them” mystery-fantasy that takes place in a world where magic is very tough to learn. There’s an obvious parallel with the Harry Potter concept, but with some important differences. For example, anyone can learn magic, they just have to be taught and that doesn’t happy very often (Grant is the first apprentice wizard in London in fifty years). The magic is more limited than with the Potter series and the focus is on solving a murder mystery that just happens to involve some river creatures and a pissed-off old spirit.
I definitely plan to work my way through the other novels in the series. In case you decide to give the book a try, there are two editions: Rivers of London is the UK title; the US edition is called Midnight Riot. Click here to visit Aaronovitch’s website and here to see the book on Amazon.
(Apologies for the blurred cover image on the detail page of this post – screen grabs suck and WordPress/Avada doesn’t seem to want to let me reduce the image size on the detail page.)