Rivers of London was recommended to me by a bookstore owner (one who carries my novels too, and was trying to find similar target audiences). Considering my love of urban-fantasy detective, especially with an historical bent, I dived right in.
What to expect
Expect an interesting twist on Urban Fantasy, when an unsuspecting British constable is suddenly exposed to a world of ghosts and spirits. PC Peter Grant is a likeable fellow, a constable at the beginning of his police career. Doing the dreary standing around guarding a crime scene past midnight, PC Grant meets a ghost — and his world is never the same afterwards.
We get an interesting mix of a modern British police novel, a constable who has a knack for the supernatural but needs to learn the ropes, and plethora of trivia from London’s history. The books starts a little slow but picks up later, there’s plenty of twists and humour along the way, and if some of the female characters are a tad flat it can be chalked to the genre.
What I liked
I liked the immersion in London’s culture and history (which can get dizzying at times). PC Grant has a good voice and the plot progresses at a good pace. The beginning might seems a bit episodic, with murders every few weeks with some down time for Grant in between – but about two thirds in all hell breaks loose and it becomes more thriller than mystery.
Aaronovitch gives us an interesting mix. It’s certainly fantasy with a supernatural world populated by ghosts and rivers gods, with spell-casting wizards and all the trappings – but it isn’t high magic in the vein of Harry Dresden. Similarly, it’s not exactly a classic police procedural, though I’m sure fans of Law & Order would appreciate the details given to police work. And while ghosts of the past keep coming up, it’s isn’t exactly historical fantasy either. All in all, though, I’d say it presents a very interesting world-building.
What to be aware of
The books takes place in London (duh), and some working knowledge of the city would help. It shouldn’t stop or slow you down (you can pick up cues from the text) but having never been there I used some google maps and Wikipedia article to orient myself. Then again, that could be just me. There are also plenty of English references and slang which can be understood from the text but you’d lose something without them.
Also, for some reason that always baffles me, my American readers should note that in the US this title was released as “Nidnight Riot”. Same book, but got all the wrong spelling for you (which must be odd, not having a constable in charge of the Queen’s Peace use the Queen’s English).
If you love London history and British crime drama, if you like urban fantasy and are looking for something fresh, this is definitely a book you should check out. I will definitely be reading the sequels.