Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

In One Line: Harry Potter meets The Bill
Genre: Realism with a fantasy twist OR fantasy with a realism twist - whatever you prefer!
The Gist:
Peter Grant is just your average probationary copper, destined for a life of behind-the-scenes paperwork whilst his preppy, pretty colleague gets the best gig in the fuzz. But that’s until he happens on talking to a key witness in a bizarre murder in Covent Garden (the victim has had his head literally whacked off in one blow), because this witness is already dead. Yep folks, among all the normal weird stuff that goes down in London town, there’s a whole other level of weird stuff going on too, and soon enough PC Peter Grant, under the tutelage of the only wizard left in the Met, finds himself right in the thick of it and solving a spate of seemingly random acts of violence across the city. (I just realised that I just wrote a particularly long sentence. Don’t try reading it out loud, ok?)
The Cover:
Oh I wish that YA books were this pretty and inventive when it came to book covers. What is particularly amazing about this cover is that that I kept flicking back to it throughout the book, and it just became even more amazing the more I read. 
I should add a side note here that I have a penchant for old London maps. I even have an ancient map of Middlesex pinned to my wall, plus a 1923 underground map, which is FASCINATING because you can see where all the ghost stations are. I also have a 1940s RAF map of north west London. So... erm... that explains why I love the cover of Rivers of London so much. In case you were wondering. 
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • It is a joy to read. It’s clever, but it doesn’t pummel you over the head with literary devices, nor does it patronise you as it explains the inner workings of a mega-city. This book fascinates, enthrals and inspires. I actually can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t get something out of this book. Except for my mother, because she doesn’t ‘do’ magic. 
  • Aaronovitch paints characters with brilliant colours. They’re somehow slightly stereotypical, so that you know what you’re dealing with, but at the same time entirely original. I’m not even sure that sentence makes sense, but when you come across the ladies of the River, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Beverley Brook in particular is an absolute dream to read. 
  • And on that note, all the rivers of London have little gods and goddesses, which are amazing! Like, you can totally wikipedia Beverley Brook and she is totally a real place. I’m pleased that the River Brent gets a mention in the book, because that’s my local, innit. 
  • Magic and wizards and vampires OH MY!!! Somehow this book manages to be totally fantastical, and yet totally plausible at the same time. All the locations are real, and all the observations absolutely spot on. I’m surprised nobody has arranged a Rivers of London tour by now. Because I would be ON THAT.

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • Some of the very policey bits got a bit too much for me. Aaronovitch explains a hell of a lot, especially when it comes to the workings of the Met, which I can understand is pretty fascinating for a lot of people, but it just didn’t do it for me. I think because frankly I could have been told absolutely anything and would have to have taken it as fact, because I have very little knowledge about how actual policing works. 
  • As you start to wander the streets of London, you’ll start to notice things. And become rather suspicious. Like, maybe that tramp in a doorway is really a vampire, or most spooky, thinking about the number of people who have probably died right under your feet. Seeing as London is thousands of years old, that’s a lot of dead bodies to be walking all over.  
  • The sad realisation that this book is fiction. Because when you get to the end you’ll desperately want it to be all real. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
Yeah man. It passed. Which is actually weird for a book with hardly any romantic element (I love me a bit of sexual electricity in a book) but I was just fascinated. The story speeds by, the pace is expertly managed, and you’re just waiting for the next freaky thing to happen. 
Final Verdict:
As you get into your twenties you don’t often come across Brand New feelings. But on the 7th July 2005 I felt something I hadn’t felt ever before. It was pure, guttural anger. Because some geezers decided to wreck my town. Yes I was sad for the victims, and scared for my own safety, but my primary reaction was: HOW DARE THEY. THIS IS MY TOWN. Maybe it was some vestigia of Blitz spirit, but I could have seriously punched anybody who dared threaten this fine city we call London. I think Ben Aaronovitch gets this. I think he feels the same way I do when I discover a random alleyway with a gorgeous pub at the end of it, or works out that certain streets are totally ancient and have barmy weird names that are actually bastardised versions of something from ye olde English. What I’m trying to say is that this book is infused with love and respect for my favourite place in the entire world, and that makes it a pure joy to read. I honestly don’t think you could write a book like this about any other city in the whole world, and it makes me feel honoured to work and live here. This book makes me proud. I want to thrust this book in the faces of anyone who would dare threaten my manor, and go HERE. THIS IS WHY THIS CITY IS SO SPECIAL. MESS WITH IT AND YOU MESS WITH ME. 
Further Reading:
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
To buy Rivers of London click HERE!!!


  1. Aw, I get quite protective of London, too. And when people tell me they don't like London and why, I always think it tells me way more about them than it does about the city. I love how I can use London as a gauge for deciding what I think about people.

    I must find that book and get a better look at the cover. Cheers! :)

  2. I love London as well and completely get where you're coming from. I loved this book as well - it was reminscent of the Jim Butcher Dresden Files which is one of my favourite series! I loved your review! :-)