Rivers of London/ Midnight Riot (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

Form: e-book, mobi format
Genre: Urban fantasy, crime mystery
Target audience: older YA and adults


Peter Grant wants to become a real police officer but his plans seem to be thwarted even before his career starts for good. His superior, not impressed by Peter’s efforts, plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut, a power failure or eternal boredom and a spare tyre around your belly. Still Peter feels his fate might change soon. First he sees and talks to a ghost. Then he gets under the wings of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, a one-man magical law and order enforcement squad. Not one moment too soon. 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. He won’t be bored but will he survive?

What I liked:

“Fuck me, I thought. I can do magic.” 

The sense of humour of our dear Peter was impeccable although sometimes rather uncouth. Maybe it is so  because  he lives in London, a vibrant big city where you rub your elbows with strange and not necessary kind creatures from all over the world. Like all those pesky tourists. Anyway the level of geekiness, science and the dry British jokes aimed at practically everyone and everything, from African mothers and policemen to Polish kitchen aids and cockney blue collar workers, was really high.

“Conflict resolution,’ said Nightingale. ‘Is this what they teach at Hendon these days?’
‘Yes, sir,’ I said. ‘But don’t worry, they also teach us how to beat people with phone books and the ten best ways to plant evidence.” 

Anybody firmly rooted in pop-culture and modern world will like and appreciate the divagating of Peter, although, from time to time, sad, mean purists wearing unfashionable, square glasses might say the boy is a tad too misogynist/undereducated/violence-prone specimen of a Londoner. He doesn’t know Latin or Greek after all and he got just those measly Cs while passing his Science A levels. Pathetic, isn’t it? Hardly a role model for the younger generation.

“Carved above the lintel were the words SCIENTIA POTESTAS EST. Science points east, I wondered? Science is portentous, yes? Science protests too much. Scientific potatoes rule. Had I stumbled on the lair of dangerous plant geneticists?”
Ben Aaronovitch’s love for London is big, wild and contagious. I can relate. It is a city I felt immediately at home so it was a big advantage that London plays an important role in this story, being treated with deference. It is way more than just a setting. You can’t stay indifferent after reading such a passage:
A traditional Punch and Judy booth.
A traditional Punch and Judy booth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the “London once-over” – a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport – like BASE jumping or crocodile wrestling.

A nice quote, isn’t it? Perhaps you can say that about every big city and its inhabitants but I find it especially true for London for reason or reasons unknown. Perhaps it is a matter of the climate. Or the Punch and Judy show. Or the famous British tea more often than not superseded by fine Brazillian coffee. Yeah..
What I didn’t like:
First let me tell you that I don’t appreciate the double title of the book. Rivers of London made sense; why wasn’t it good enough for the American editor? Search me. Maybe because they were at a loss what rivers of what London the author meant? Maybe at first glance they took this novel for one of quaint hydrology textbooks or a guide for the fans of riverspotting? (If you ask me riverspotting would make far more sense than trainspotting. At least a river is almost always there so you can ‘spot’ it as long as you want to. And take a picture. Just saying.)
When it comes to the adventures of darling Peter…the plot was hardly surprising or innovative. A good sense of humor is not a band aid you can slap over a pile of plot construction problems; a wise-cracking hero or not, when he repeats the steps of practically all other heroes, featured in similar books  you find yourself yawning after a moment or two. On the verge of his manhood he discovers he is a wizard? Just like Harry Potter only a bit later. He gets an older mentor? Albus Dumbledore, anyone? He gets into serious trouble and finds himself all on his lonesome? Yeah…
Also the water spirits or gods and godesses of Thames and its tributaries seemed ordinary, almost surprisingly normal. No, it wasn’t exactly a pleasant surprise. Why introduce a bunch of supernatural characters when a bunch of ordinary Londoners would do as well if not actually better?

Finally one of my pet peeves when it comes to fantasy: time travelling. So you can do it without major consequences but in another dimension and it might take a vampire bite or two? Not persuaded, sorry.

Final verdict:
A very promising beginning of an urban fantasy series; still I hope the next book will be better. Because it can be better, right? 
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4 Responses to Rivers of London/ Midnight Riot (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

  1. blodeuedd says:

    Too lazy to log in and you know my feelings already 🙂

  2. heidenkind says:

    Time travel is your pet peeve? Why? What are some books where it bothered you?I've noticed Londoners are very cold on the street, too–literally and figuratively! Even in New York City people are friendlier than that.

  3. My problems with time travel started with Wells and then the tension increased. Why ? I suppose the reason is always the same – I overthink the issue and, although I find it enticing, there are always those pesky problems concerning the logic. My fav theory so far: ghosts are time travellers. They cannot interfere and cannot be seen (mostly) only observe.

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