Thursday, 18 April 2013

Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch

I have just finished Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. This book was really good! The novel is about a nice young London police officer and how his life is changed when a ghost tells him he witnessed a murder. He unwittingly tells a superior officer he is ghost hunting and gives him his identification and we are off! This then tumbles him into a magical apprenticeship and a police hunt that incorporates magical and normal police work.

I loved how seamlessly Aaronovitch switches between the ordinary and magical police work of Peter Grant. I could almost imagine I am reading a policeman’s autobiography full of helpful little hints. For example if someone is being difficult even after you haven shown them your identification, you can suggest they call your superior office because “members of the public are generally lazier than they are suspicious”. I may have a nefarious mind because that seems to me like I can totally trick people with a fake badge and then give them a fake number and it’ll be honky dory. OH! and this one was particularly helpful, Grant tells us that he learnt in a course on conflict resolution to, “stress your neutrality while allowing both parties to think you’re secretly on their side”.  

But it isn’t all light heartened and interesting glimpses into the world of a police officer. He mentions being the first on the scene of an accident and that seeing a body doesn’t get all the much easier. He also struggles with having to the ‘strong’ person on the scene of some horrific magical crimes with people clustered around or panicking. These little inner monologues and soliloquies are so much apart of Aaronovicth’s style of writing but it is also they way in which he allows the audience to connect with Grant, and connect I did.

The way magic works hasn’t yet been fully explained in the book and I don’t care. I have been finding lately that too many authors are info dumping their magic system on me and to be honest, post it on your blog for people who want to know more, or put it in an appendix. I love that magic is something that exists, it happens, and because Grant has some kind of aptitude for it, is being trained in it. I really enjoyed the history between The Folly and the Police Department and that is something I do want to know more about. I am grateful it wasn’t an info dump and I can handle the information coming out in a trickle, keeps things interesting.

As you may have guessed (or known) Rivers of London would be classified as urban fantasy. A criticism I found before I read the book was that if you aren’t from or have never been to London you wouldn’t understand what Grant is experiencing. I didn’t feel like that at all. Aaronovitch paints a clear picture, it’s no different from me reading books set in America. Grant does use a lot of street names, moans about the traffic and harps on about peak hour but so what? It’s set in a busy city and it adds to the tension you feel as Grant rushes around trying to get to people and places before their faces fall off (Yep, you read that right).

Now let’s take a moment to compare this to the Dresden Files shall we? While it is similar in a few respects, I am in no way shape or form saying something stupid like it’s a copycat or any of the garbage. The first thing I immediately noticed was that Grant has friends, well in the very least a young fellow police officer that he would like to be intimate with, but he has other people around too. He is an apprentice and he digs into his magical studies with relish (not so much the Latin or ancient languages) and he develops a relationship with his ‘master’ (hehe it makes me giggle) and senior officer. He makes friends along the way and he isn’t trying to be a lone wolf (13 books of Dresden pushing people away gets kind of old). I understand the intrinsically dangerous nature of the job, being a normal police officer and the added element of magic doesn’t make it any less so, but Grant hasn’t gone into self-pity guilt mode … yet and I hope it stays that way. I like the other characters and don't want them to have even less of a role because Grant wants to keep them 'safe'.
US name and cover (so much uglier!)

I am having a really hard time not picking up the next two books, another is due out this year (yay!) but I want to try and pace myself (yeah I know, I’m only delaying the inevitable, and not by much I suspect). I hope Aaronovitch is going to do a release a year but that may well depend on you ALL picking up his books and reading them. If you’re in the UK, they are like 5 pound on kindle, here in Aus it was $12, but trust me, you won’t mind paying it!

4 out of 5 poor police officers ‘wanting to scream’

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