Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London is a cross between a crime story and an urban fantasy novel.  The story is narrated by Peter Grant who is a constable with the Met Police.  At the start of the story Peter, and is fellow PC Leslie, are set to protecting a crime scene where a murder has taken place and things start to develop in a strange way when Peter takes a witness statement from a ghost.  Following this Peter comes to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the only wizard in England, who takes Peter on as is apprentice.  Between them they form a unit who ‘police’ the fantasy creatures included in the story – such as vampires, ghosts and trolls.  A bit like The Men in Black, if you will, but for supernaturals not aliens (and without all the gadgets but with the addition of a bit of magic).  The cover of the book describes this novel as a grown up Harry Potter although I’m not sure this is the best comparison.  Yes, there is magic involved but it takes a comparatively small role and the supernaturals almost blend in – or at least don’t leave you feeling overwhelmed or disbelieving.  I think this is due to the narrator’s voice which is very matter of fact and not given to flowery writing.  He makes it feel normal that ghosts are skulking in corners or trolls are sleeping under bridges (nothing strange there after all!!)

This is a very interesting and, for me, unique read.  The story is set in London and there is a wealth of local detail together with a sprinkling of folklore and history (but not told in a lecturing way).  I liked the inclusion of the water spirits, Father and Mother Thames – and all their children – such as Lady Tyburn.

The main plot follows a series of growing and grisly murders which start to become more frequent as tempers rise and the malevolent spirit behind it all creates chaos and riots in the streets of London.  This is certainly a page turner and is gripping from the very start.  The action quickly builds and the introduction of a sub-plot in the form of a turf war between the water spirits adds a different element to the story.  I will however point out that although this book is a fantasy novel it isn’t suitable for a younger audience.  The murders are a bit grisly and there is also the inclusion of some strong language.

In terms of criticisms I would say that sometimes I had to make a bit of a leap of faith to understand some of the conclusions reached (although  this could be because I’m just not smart enough!).  And, also I wouldn’t have minded a bit more explanation about certain elements – for example, Peter becomes an apprentice and starts to learn magic – could anybody learn magic or did he have some sort of natural proclivity, similarly with his ghost seeing abilities – can anybody see ghosts.  And, what exactly is Molly??

On the whole though I think the author has done an excellent job with this novel.  The setting is perfect and the characters are written in a way that makes you care for them.  The author includes some good one liners which help to alleviate some of the tension and balance out the creepy feel of the story and he succeeds in alternating between sleuthing, fantasy, crime, horror and humour which isn’t an easy task after all.

I do recommend this book and I will definitely read the next one.

Rating A


Rivers of London

Rivers of London

2 Responses to “Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch”

  1. James

    To answer for the Author here, regarding “similarly with his ghost seeing abilities – can anybody see ghosts.” –

    Yes, anyone can see ghosts, but whether they do or not depends on a number of things. Firstly, the Earth Plane is very “dense” right now – meaning of low vibration as opposed to high. This means that the subtle planes are less accessible, and most people will not see ghosts or objects in the subtle planes. We here much about children seeing ghosts – and the reason for this is that the subtle body of a child has not yet “hardened” or “densified” (in a similar densification that the Earth itself is currently within – and moving out of)

    So can anyone see ghosts, yes anyone can, most “don’t”, but many more will start to with increasing ability as we move into a time where the veil between this world and the next is thinning.

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