Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Posted: September 25, 2013 in lessons learned, reading
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been meaning to read Rivers of London for a while. I’m intrigued by the idea of hidden cities lurking beneath our own, both literally and metaphorically, and this looked like it would play on that theme. I’ve not read much urban fantasy, but this looked fun and a bit different, and I’m familiar enough with London for that to add to my interest. I don’t know how original this is by comparison with other fantasies in modern settings, but it worked for me.

Rivers of London follows policeman Peter Grant as he’s drawn into a world of supernatural danger and politicing. It’s rich and convincing in its detail, including that on police life and London’s history. I don’t know if it would stand up to an expert in those fields, but I’m no expert, and Aaronovitch convinced me he knew what he was doing. In fact, that was one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book as a writer – do more research. The throw-away details and the real-sounding depiction of the nuances of police life really sucked me in, even when dealing with the unreal.

Story-wise, this was pretty familiar. An apprentice drawn into an exotic life, growing out from beneath the wings of his master. A mysterious power to be thwarted. A crime with limited suspects. A hint of love triangle on the side. Nothing innovative, but nothing wrong with that. The parts combined well, it was easy to follow and cracked along at a good pace.

And strangely, I’m struggling for more to say. There was nothing that stood out as wrong with this book, and nothing that leapt out and made me go ‘holy cow, I must talk about that!’ It was good enough that I’ll probably read more Peter Grant books, and at the end of the day, isn’t that a success for a novel?

Overall, worth reading. I enjoyed it, I’ve learned a bit, now on to the next story.

Have any of you read it? What did you think?

  1. SiC says:

    I’ve read it, and the sequel (there’s four books now, I’ve only read the first two). I like the setting, I think there is a lot of potential, but I don’t think the story is very good. Perhaps I am craving a detective story too much (I really like fantasy/sci-fi whodunits) and this isn’t a good whodunit, it’s a procedural.

    Also if you are interested in the genuine hidden things under London, can I recommend http://www.londonslostrivers.com/ and the accompanying book?

    • Ooh, that page looks awesome – thanks Si.

      I can see how the story would be disappointing if you were looking for a mystery. Personally, I quite like crime procedurals, stuff like Murder One and the second half of each Law and Order episode. I enjoy seeing how institutions work, their particular cultures and tensions, and that was enough for me on this one.

      That said, writing about crime often raises an expectation of mystery, and a real mystery probably would have made this a tighter, tenser story – something I’m going to ponder next time I’m writing anything detective-related.

  2. […] sitting in my YouTube list – Doc Brown has made a rap video based on Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London. A musician I admire rapping about a book I enjoyed? Sounds good to me. And Doc Brown seems a […]

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