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111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Combine science and magic? Sure, why not?
It is always such a pleasure for me to find an author who manages to write a book that piques my interest and holds my attention. Both are true here because Ben Aaronovitch created something new for me. Normally when I read an urban fantasy book the plot requires that all those involved in that world are aware of the magic components active all around them. In this...
Published on 15 Mar. 2011 by J. Lesley

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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging start to a new urban fantasy series
Ben Aaronovitch is a successful screenwriter who has worked mainly in the fantasy and science fiction genres. 'Rivers of London' is the first novel in the series of the same name. It's probably best described as urban fantasy.

The city in question is London, and the fantasy element arises in the intersection of the modern, gritty London we all know and another,...
Published on 27 Jun. 2011 by Paul Bowes


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111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Combine science and magic? Sure, why not?, 15 Mar. 2011
By 
J. Lesley "(Judy)" (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rivers of London (Hardcover)
It is always such a pleasure for me to find an author who manages to write a book that piques my interest and holds my attention. Both are true here because Ben Aaronovitch created something new for me. Normally when I read an urban fantasy book the plot requires that all those involved in that world are aware of the magic components active all around them. In this book that is not the case. Probationary PC Peter Grant had been left to guard a crime scene when he met a ghost. Not just any ghost either, no, this one was a witness to the crime. In very short order PC Grant finds himself assigned to a unit of the Metropolitan Police which up until he joined it had only one other member, a wizard. Peter is now on his way to becoming an apprentice wizard, learning magic and trying to help solve the crimes of completely unexplained violence which are breaking out all over London. Peter's best answer is to use his interest in scientific knowledge and experimentation in conjunction with the magic to explain some of the things that are happening.

I really enjoyed this book for its humor and the unusual combination of scientific investigation paired with utilizing magic. It put a different spin on the plot for me by having the entire London scene be so solidly in the present time, with the citizens of that great city completely unaware of the magic or the horrors within their city. I also enjoyed the great amount of research this author has obviously done regarding the many rivers around London. And to have each of them portrayed as an individual character was quite a successful undertaking. I also want to compliment those responsible for the artwork map on the cover of this book. No matter how many times I look at it I keep finding names of areas or a street that I recognize. I have to admit that, as an American, there were just a few times when I felt a little lost because I didn't understand some of the English slang or references, but it was certainly not anything that kept me from enjoying the novel. Book two, Moon Over Soho, is next in the series and if this one is anything to go by it should be another fascinating reading experience.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging start to a new urban fantasy series, 27 Jun. 2011
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rivers of London (Hardcover)
Ben Aaronovitch is a successful screenwriter who has worked mainly in the fantasy and science fiction genres. 'Rivers of London' is the first novel in the series of the same name. It's probably best described as urban fantasy.

The city in question is London, and the fantasy element arises in the intersection of the modern, gritty London we all know and another, more shadowy city in which magic is an alternative form of knowledge and the contemporary streets overlie deep strata of history, legend and myth and hidden circuits of power. Aaronovitch brings these threads together in the story of a young mixed-race constable in the Metropolitan Police who must somehow operate in both worlds to solve mysteries and crimes with a supernatural element.

Aaronovitch's style will be immediately familiar to anyone who has followed British fantasy writing over the last decade. More sophisticated in the writing than J. K. Rowling, 'Rivers of London' still has a rather young-adult feel when compared to the best writers who have taken London as a rich hunting ground - I'm thinking here of Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd in particular. Perhaps more pertinently, I also found it less interesting than the work of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.

As one might expect from a novelist with Aaronovitch's professional pedigree, there are few of the typical first-novel problems. The book is carefully plotted and maintains interest throughout. Given the nature of the story, which moves fluidly between the late eighteenth century and the present day, there is a lot of research-based detail. This is woven into the texture of the narrative in a reasonably unobtrusive manner, but it's fair to say that it's Aaronovitch's fellow Londoners who are most likely to appreciate it. This London is buzzing, theatrical, multi-ethnic and relentlessly up-to-the-moment, but I felt that Aaronovitch's heart lay more in its past. There is a certain flatness in the depictions of the present-day city, as though a new set of clichés familar from recent television had supplanted the old 'cheeky Cockneys, friendly bobbies' stereotype.

'Rivers of London' is a pleasant, engaging read from a writer who promises better. Fans of modern fantasy will certainly enjoy it. It will be interesting to see how the series develops.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masculine Urban Fantasy, 14 Mar. 2011
By 
Manly Reading (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
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Masculine Urban Fantasy
Not a lot of "urban fantasy" is masculine these days - only Glen Cook's Garrett PI and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files fit the bill, at least for some definitions of UF. This is more police procedural with magic than soft porn bodice-ripper with vampires/werewolves/demons/etc: I say that not to throw stones at anyone's favourite genre, just to make the point clear. There is no sex, brief nudity, and while blood is drunk, its not really romantic and nor is it drunk by a vampire.

So...what is it about? Well, imagine being a young mixed-race copper in London, about to get posted to a dull dead end existance shuffling paper, while your glamourous almost-girlfriend gets a plum posting...and then a ghost gives you a tip-off and you discover a whole new world. This is a London of spirits and ghosts, groaning under the weight of history and geography. And someone is commiting murder by magical possession.

The London here is as much a character as setting, with the various rivers and streams all having human forms (the UK edition is called Rivers of London, the US Midnight Riot - both are appropriate for different reasons). Its very British, and a long love letter to London.

Most of all though there is an intriguing crime story which happens to involve ghosts, and the odd realistic tangent of dealing with a nest of vampires or settling scores between Father Thames and Mother Thames. Aaronovitch has written an story which runs along as a good pace, and you really don't want to put down.

The sequel, Moon over Soho, is out now, and the next volume, Whispers Under Ground, is out later this year. If they are as good as this, then there is a lot to look forward to.
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86 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely nothing like what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz, 13 July 2011
This review is from: Rivers of London (Hardcover)
For once an urban fantasy that actually is an urban fantasy, with not a poxy Doc Martened elf in sight, thank god: part very well researched police procedural, part Sorcerer's Apprentice - and this is a real apprenticeship, where results come from sheer slog and perseverance, not from waving a magic wand - part gruesome murder hunt, part otherworldly politicking, and part - and this is my favourite part by far - a carefully detailed map of Central London, written by one who knows and loves the place as it should be loved, all of it narrated by likeable Everyman Peter Grant, an adequate enough probationary constable who's just a bit too curious for his own good (while his colleagues are breaking up a riot in Trafalgar Square, he stops to check what's written on the lions' bums). Peter crosses the line between one world and another and, in the process, is saved from a future of data entry in the Case Progression Unit, one cold morning in Covent Garden, when he's left guarding a crime scene and a witness steps forward from St Paul's Church - a witness who has been dead for considerably longer than the body under investigation.

Rivers of London isn't perfect - there are a lot of open questions left hanging, and some of the plot resolutions don't entirely make sense - but it is bloody good, and one of the best things I've read in many years. Good enough that I went straight out and bought the sequel. In hardback.

Ignore Diana Gabaldon's stupid cover blurb, by the way. I'll do her the credit of believing she was misquoted.

Don't expect to learn too much about the actual lost rivers of London, though. That's a fascinating topic in itself, but one for another book entirely.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An edgy urban fantasy told in an idiosyncratic, cynical voice that interweaves contemporary with `classic' chiqué, 9 May 2014
This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
This quirky, highly original thriller is a vividly evocative novel of extraordinary wonder and exquisite depth. Full of dry wit and irony the entertaining narrative swept me off into a darkly sinister, supernatural world of wonder and enchantment! The truly inspired concepts within Ben Aaronovitch's remarkable debut captured my imagination; blending together chilling crime and archaic magic within a 21st century backdrop. London is my home and so I felt at ease exploring the iconic places and landmarks, which were so acutely captured on the page with that added touch of mystery. I was ever so impressed by such a refreshingly innovative literary masterpiece of pure genius and substance, which I confidently predict becoming a new bestseller for this genre.

RIVERS OF LONDON is the first instalment within the new PC Grant series; a book that blends together the author's love of London with touches of tension set within a spellbinding, mystical backdrop. Aaronovitch provides an exclusive glimpse into the fascinating and fantastical underbelly of the city of London that feels entirely believable and convincing. As chaotic events unfold to shock and surprise, I undertook both a Geography lesson as well as a riveting read of memorability and magical moments. The richly detailed, sweeping narrative I felt was reminiscent of Deborah Harkness' book `A Discovery of Witches' as it similarly contained those elements from classic fantasy fiction within a modern setting.

As I surveyed all of London before me from high up on the royal opera house balcony that faces Covent Garden market, I could clearly envisage in my mind PC Grant's shadowy underworld just waiting to be discovered...
I was compulsively addicted to this terrific tale and glued to the pages for many hours on end, to both my astonishment and overwhelming delight! I cannot wait to pick up book 2: Moon over Soho from my local bookstore.

*I won a paperback copy of Ben Aaronovitch's novel `Rivers of London' through a Goodreads, first-read giveaway. I would like to thank Gollancz Fiction (Orion publishers).

[...]

Books in order -
1. Rivers of London
2. Moon over Soho
3. Whispers of the underground
4. Broken Homes...coming soon!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supernatural police procedural that really gets London..., 1 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
I'm a fast reader so getting through a book in two days isn't a problem, except for the fact that I'm easily distracted, so life often gets in the way and books often take much longer to finish than their length would suggest.

Not this one. I began to resent having to do other stuff as it was stopping me from reading this book. Its very well written but not in an obvious way so was not hard to read and the ideas were compelling enough and the mystery interesting enough to pull the reader into the world. It is also very humorous but manages to not to be absurd so avoids comparison to other speculative fiction crime writing like the Dirk Gently books which could be read as more of a parody of the 'crime/detective' novel.

I've not really ventured into the 'urban fantasy' or 'paranormal romance' sub genres much yet and the massive profusion of titles and the current popularity of the sub-genre has put me off. I have been intrigued by the Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher books and more recently I stumbled across this book.

The reason this caught my eye was that I recently saw a documentary on the 'Rivers of London' which revealed there are a number of subterranean rivers, tributaries of the river Thames, still hidden below the streets and that concept made me interested in what an author, especially a speculative fiction one, could do with such information.

Well I wasn't disappointed. What the author has given us is a crime procedural from the viewpoint of a lowly police constable, but one with a twist in that Scotland Yard also has a department for dealing with crimes which have a supernatural element and our hero find himself apprenticed to a Wizard but still a part of the great metropolitan police. Where the author succeeds is that he handles the mundaneness of police work with as much relish and detail as he does the supernatural plot elements of the story. I also really enjoyed the secondary plot about the rising tensions between two factions involved in a turf war led by Mother Thames and her daughters and Father Thames and his sons all of whom are river deities. The plot of which gives the book it's title.

Having worked in London for 6 years and having familiarity with the areas where the main story occurs, I can say with some authority that the author had captured the places wonderfully well. He imbued the book with a sense of a new modern brash city but with those old side-roads and areas which haven't changed quite as fast and the sense of the history and strangeness of some of those places which are just off the beaten track setting the perfect mood for this supernatural police procedural. For that alone I was disposed to love this book ensuring I will recommend it to others for years to come.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable magical romp, 6 Feb. 2012
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
In Rivers Of London, Aaronovitch takes young London copper Peter Grant, whom, it is hinted at is somewhat inept, and places him at a the scene of a murder guarding it overnight alongside Lesley, a colleague he wishes to be more than just friends with, when he is approached by one Nicholas Wallpenny who claims to have witnessed the crime. During Peter's attempt to take a statement Wallpenny dematerialises revealing himself to be a ghost.

Thus begins a tale of ordinary London policing interlocked with a tale of vampires and wizard police officers, sequestration and ghosts, and a dispute between two powerful water spirits. This book shouldn't work, it really shouldn't, the crime genre, the magic genre, and the vampire genre are such well worn avenues of late that they have become truly pedestrian. With all the elements of recent popular fiction thrown in together this book should have been bad, a bit needy, trying to cover all bases and be liked. In some ways it's a bit annoying that its not, because it makes you wonder how he managed to pull it off.

The main strength of the book is that it's entertaining, the prose is vivid and comical, it has a real caper feel to it, with Peter spending most of his time wondering how the hell he ended up involved in yet another disaster. The main storyline of the crime itself is clever and probably, if I knew much about the history, very well researched. The second storyline the resolution of a dispute between two water spirits each claiming to own the Thames has a very mythological quality, and if it reminded me of anything it was of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (but not enough to consider it plagerist) which from me, is a huge compliment.

All in all, if you are into the new "vampire genre", or "magic genre", fantasy books, like Terry Pratchett say (of whom I have to say I've never been a great fan) or if you don't mind crime that's a bit silly and tongue in cheek, you'll like this. If however, you prefer gritty realism with your crime like Stuart MacBride say, or Peter Robinson, you would probably find this annoying. Personally, I really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the recently published sequel 'Moon Over Soho' 9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE DRESDEN FILES meets THE BILL, 11 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Rivers of London (Hardcover)
Peter Grant's a probationary policeman with poor career prospects (his boss wants to assign him to the Case Progressions Unit where he'll shuffle paper instead of doing proper police work). But everything changes when he and fellow probationary officer, Lesley May, have to guard a murder scene in Covent Garden after a man is brutally beheaded. There Peter's approached by Nicholas Wallpenny who claims to have witnessed everything. The problem is that Nicholas is dead and the statements of ghosts rarely stand up in court.

Peter's experience brings him to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England, who takes on Peter as his apprentice. Now Peter has to master magic, navigate the internal police politics that go with being a wizard, negotiate a truce between the warring gods and goddesses of the Thames and catch an evil ghosts that possesses Londoners and forces them to commit horrifically violent crimes.

Ben Aaronovitch's novel, the first in a series, is a delightful mix of fantasy and police procedural - think THE DRESDEN FILES meets THE BILL.

London's central to why this book works so well. There's a fantastic sense of place here, both in the descriptions and in the way Aaronovitch brings the Thames to life in the form of the warring Mother Thames and Father Thames, each representing different aspects of the river and each encroaching on the other's territory. I really enjoyed the scenes where Peter visits their respective courts, especially those with the dangerous Mother Thames and her daughters, notably the bubbly Beverley.

The way Aaronovitch weaves in the police procedural elements feels convincing and he's clearly put a lot of thought into how a magical division would slot in. You don't learn a great deal about Nightingale, but I liked that and the fact that the magic underlies but doesn't dominate the story. Peter's essentially an ordinary bloke who never really lived up to his potential and his family background, notably the relationship between his drug addicted jazz musician father and black mother gives an interesting dynamic. Most heartening though was his relationship with Lesley, their friendship isn't ruined by the fact he fancies her (and I loved the fact that she's better at her job than he is).

It's a thoroughly enjoyable read with a great set up for the sequel and I can well understand its deserved success.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, fascinating cover, 6 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
I very much enjoyed this urban fantasy police procedural, I expected to as I've heard mostly good things about it.
Set in London (natch) this book is about Peter Grant, a young mixed-race police officer who takes a witness statement from a ghost while guarding a crime scene. This surprising incident leads to him being placed in a very specialist division of the Metropolitan Police force, which deals with the supernatural and consists of Peter and his superior officer Inspector Nightingale.

The book was an amusing and exciting read, it dealt with some pretty nasty killings and unpleasant magic and while certain plot points were as I expected there were twists that left me surprised and keen to read on.
I liked the modernised take on mythology with the various rivers that flow through London being personified, mostly by black women. The comparison between the white, country dwelling Father Thames and his streams and tributaries and the black, urban Mother Thames and her daughter-rivers was interesting. Like Mike Shevdon's Sixty One Nails this is an urban fantasy which includes the countryside and acknowledges its difference to the city without making it out to be scary.
I very much enjoyed this book, though I did find the scenes which involved rioting and fire eerily prescient.
Also the front cover with all that densely-packed writing was distracting and fascinating. I don't usually mention cover art much, but in case I was very impressed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The last-but-one wizard in England, 24 May 2011
This review is from: Rivers of London (Hardcover)
This is a rather splendid novel. If we are to categorise it, it is both a crime/mystery novel and a fantasy novel, but is more likely to appeal to fans of the latter than the former. Although almost any reader could surely recognise many of its virtues: the chief of which is that it is fun to read.

Briefly, the principal character, and first-person narrator, is a young member of London's police force. Our narrator tries to take a witness statement from a man who turns out to be a ghost. And that experience brings young Peter Grant to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England, who takes him on as an apprentice.

This a book which is full of unexpected turns of events - seldom a bad thing. And, much to my surprise, it is a book which has dignitas, and even a little grandeur. Along the way we meet not only a few ghosts but also some attractive young ladies who turn out to be the spirits of most of London's rivers.

If I have a criticism, it is that our hero, who has an undistinguished academic record, is remarkably articulate. But hey - let's not look a gift horse.

Very nicely designed too, in an admirably readable font.
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