Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Series: Rivers of London 1
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Del Rey (February 1, 2011)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review Copy: Arc provided by Publisher
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UK Cover and synopsis
My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). 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 someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: 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 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.
While Ben Aaronovitch has written some Doctor Who tie-in novels, this is his first original novel and his urban fantasy debut. Midnight Riot / Rivers of London is quite simply fabulous. It's a mystery, police procedural, and urban fantasy wrapped in a rich mythology of London's rivers.
I find it interesting that this novel has two different covers and two different titles. This is not the first time this has happened in the history of novels, of course. I find it interesting because the covers and titles reflect two different aspects of the same story.
"Rivers of London" seems to emphasize the fantasy construct underlying the story: a mythology of London's rivers. Peter Grant, the main character, has to deal with issues created by the rivers. He deals directly with the gods and goddesses of the rivers and streams - the rivers personified. "Midnight Riot" seems to emphasize the police procedural aspect of the novel. A terrible chain of events has been set off. The mystery underlying the crimes comes from London's past. These two themes of the novel intertwine sometimes in surprising, but satisfying, ways.
Themes aside, this is essentially a story about Peter Grant. I find Detective Constable Grant to be a likable, flawed character. He makes mistakes. He's sometimes foolish, but he's got a curious mind and a willingness to learn. He's also got a scientific mind which would seem at odds with his new assignment working with DCI Nightingale investigating crimes that involve magic. However, this serves him well as he starts to navigate the world of magic. It's incredibly fun to read about his attempts at magic and watch him begin his journey to wizardom. He's starting to grow into both his jobs - Detective Constable and wizard.
The characters both paranormal and normal are well written. The river gods and goddesses are particularly well drawn. I'm intrigued by DCI Nightingale and hope to learn more about him in future books. The pacing is well done. The police procedures are detailed and interesting. There is quite a bit of detail about London and environs, which I enjoyed. I love the understated humor that suffuses Midnight Riot / Rivers of London. I'm looking forward to Moon Over Soho (March 1, 2011).
I give Midnight Riot / Rivers of London 4 1/2 Qwills.