Series Review: Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch

I’ve read the first novel in the series, Rivers of London, a few months back. I quite liked the premise, so naturally delved down that rabbit hole. Here’s a review of the whole series to date: seven books, a couple of novellas, six graphic novels, and assorted shorts.

What to Expect

Aaronovitch created an excellent urban fantasy world around London. Peter Grant, the protagonist, is a police constable at the start of his career. One strange observance while he’s guarding a crime scene, and he’s recruited by the (almost defunct) division of magic law enforcement (limited to just his governor).

This way Aaronovitch slowly exposes us to his world. We learn of the magic system, the inhabitants, and the history together with PC Grant, across a variety of cases. London and it’s history play a large part in the novels, as the whole series is steeped in historical, geographical, and architectural trivia.

While not immediately obvious, the series has a long running arc. This seems to finish (or at least take a big enough divergence) in the latest published novel. Each novel usually starts with what may look like unconnected police calls, but overall they are slowly closing in on the main villain.

Besides the magical world and the historical trivia (I’m generally a sucker for that, even though Aaronovitch can lay it a bit thick at times), this whole series is very much a love affair with London.

What I liked

I liked the police-procedural approach to magic, as Peter Grant not only learns more, but uses his knowledge to coordinate with the police and write more procedures for them to follow when encountering the supernatural. It’s refreshing to see a realistic treatment of “what if” there was a magical world with supernatural creatures besides our own.

I love the with and the vibe, Aaronovitch’s writing style and Peter Grant’s own voice. The plots are twisty but the characters are approachable. There are a few dark moments, but well balanced with plenty of humour (it’s definitely on the lighter side, overall).

Peter’s training is mostly off-page in between books, but his governor is a powerful wizard. Aaronovitch handles it very well, with good reasons why the “big gun” is detained can Grant is the active protagonist.

What to be aware of

The series definitely needs to be read in order. This applies to the main novels and novellas in the arc, but also to the comics and extras (see below).

As alluded above, the series is a love-affair with London, with all its myriad neighborhoods and idiosyncrasies. The plethora of trivia references (historical, geographical, and architectural) can be distracting (even for me, who loves chasing such down rabbit holes).

The Comics and Extras

Trying to understand the reading order can be daunting. Amazon seems to have messed up a little, and on Goodreads the main series and the Graphic Novel series are separated. I’d suggest checking the main series, and checking the Wikipedia entry on where the graphic novels slot in.

Now, you can skip reading the comics if that’s not your thing. I’ve used to read more as a teen, but these have been the first I’ve read in a while. They are entertaining, and the events therein are part of the canon, but they are not essential. If you skip, you’ll come across references in the main books to things like “Britain’s most haunted car”, or the “black mould incident”, but you can treat them as off-page case teasers and they won’t hamper your enjoyment of the novels themselves.

Besides the comics, the series includes a few short stories (mostly available on Aaronovitch’s website), and a few novellas. Two are set as part of the book series (and should be available on Amazon). The last is actually from a different view point to Peter Grant, and feels like Aaronovitch is setting the ground for the next phase of the series.

Summary

A very good modern urban fantasy series, with a solid protagonist and magical system. The historical trivia is very pronounced, but you’ll quickly discover if that’s your thing or not.

Start with Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US), and keep going. Check out the whole series if you need to pick up newer installments.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s