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on 15 March 2011
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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on 12 June 2012
I probably need to start with the admission that I have no idea of what "urban fantasy" is.....reading other reviews I don't think that is going to make me that popular.

What I do know is that this book was extremely entertaining from start to finish. I am shocked that Ben Aaronovitch has no policing background because, despite a few discrepancies, it is an impressive (albeit comical) insight in to both the inner machinations of policing the metropolis and also cop/gallows humour. Whilst, generally speaking, it is very witty there are some spectacular laugh out loud moments that leave you looking around the tube with a slightly apologetic look on your face and hoping that no one in the carriage has the power to section you.

Ben's passion for London is also extremely apparent and makes the journey all the more interesting. A real bonus is that, if you know the locations already, it is like rediscovering them all over again.

I really enjoyed this book, it captivated me very quickly and I find myself missing being involved with it now that I have finished. Great work. I hope you enjoy it too.
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on 13 July 2011
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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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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on 9 May 2014
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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on 7 May 2013
Rivers of London is the first of a series of books in the style of urban fantasy. Having read and enjoyed several highly recommended urban fantasy novels lately, I decided to take a chance on this author, who is new to me. I am so glad I did. The storyline is refreshing with some interesting twists on the normal take of magic in present day setting. It came off as very real and unpredictable. The main character is a young PC constable called Peter Grant, who is described as mixed race and native of London, England.

The narrative is clearly by someone who knows London well through living there, which meant that as a fellow Londoner, I did not need to be distracted by inaccuracies in the geography. I liked the way the author did not descend into stereotyping of characters but rather kept the characters as people. London is a melting pot and so a typical Londoner would reflect that. Because of the refreshing viewpoint, this meant the reader needed to make up their own minds about what is likely to happen next without the aid of cliches to guide them. I did not notice a single "little did he know that in a few hours time that information would save his life". Dan Brown could learn a lot here.

Things I especially liked;
There are various side jokes and ironies such as "The father ready to defend himself from two stereotypes" when describing the black plainclothes PC constable and companion about to rescue the German tourists in Covent Garden. Some of these made me laugh out loud.
The magic in the plot was refreshingly played down rather than being the main plotline, consequently the main themes where about the thought processes of the main character as he stumbles (quite intelligently) through the new experiences he discovers in the world of magic. There were both tragedies as well as triumphs, which kept it real, yet satisfying. No one in the story seems to know everything or be able to predict the future, so this felt more like real life.

I finished the book wanting more, which is clearly a good sign, and I have already bought the next book in the series. I would highly recommend this book if you like urban fantasy and you don't like too much predictability.
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on 16 July 2015
I don't understand how on reading the reviews the fact that the book dealt in magic escaped me as it is abundantly made clear.... so imagine my disappointment when I took it down from the shelf recently, thinking I was about to read a classic murder mystery, when I realised I had to deal with Harry Potter turned policeman.I thought I was the only one to blame as I am not a lover of magic/fantasy writing at all. I still decided to give it a go and remembering how dearly I had loved Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' thirtyyears ago thought that if the writer was gifted all wasn't necessarily lost. Unfortunately for me , in a murder mystery, I like a good tight plot, with clues strewn about and a seamless story which progresses logically from what the reader is being fed. All the better when I miss those clues only to understand at the end how vital they were and why I never got to the solution by myself. Reading 'Rivers of London' was a painful experience and although I decided, unlike some other reviewers, to stick with it to the bitter end I must say it was with a great sense of relief I finally turned the last page. And let me say it's not merely the magic that irritated me thoughout the book. Had there been a good plot I could have dealt with a few spells cast here and there. But I have seldom read a story where the reader is so lost as to why things happen, as there is no logic whatsoever in the unfolding of the narrative. Everything is remarkably random and seems to stem only from the author's whim to go where he pleases. Add to that a complete inability to draw convinving characters and a style of writing that is at best mediocre and you end up with a book whose only good point is its' relative' shortness. Too bad if other readers feel incensed by what I've written, I can only share my own sincere experience as a reader. That some readers loved it is clear , that others disliked it just as much as I did is nevertheless true. The best thing is to make up your own mind after having borrowed rather than purchased ' Rivers of London'.
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on 6 May 2012
I was given this for Christmas, and only just got around to reading it 5 months later. The back sleeve blurb put me off and I had no idea how good this was going to be. I was hooked by the end of the second page.
It reminds me of the very best Doctor Who episodes of the current writing team. Totally fantastic and improbable and even ridiculous in places, and yet mesmerising in it's telling. I think that the fantasy works so well because of the bits in between that are so believably placed in reality. In fact, the humdrum and very humourous descriptions of day to day police work are actually what make the book so entertaining in the end. (I haven't been so entertained and delighted by a book since I reread The Hobbit).
I will most definitely be buying the next book in the series.
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VINE VOICEon 12 September 2015
I rarely enjoy fantasy fiction but was intrigued by the description of this book in that it is a police procedural set in London with a definite nod to the Harry Potter generation.
London is a huge part of the story. All the streets, bars, restaurants and police stations are real and its great to imagine this action playing out around such familiar surroundings.
This is very clearly a book for adults but with its heart on children's fiction, making it feel nostalgic at the same time as the modern language and technology keeps the story very current.
Since starting to read this I've found out that this is the start of a series so I am going to read the next one soon.
Of course, all the magic stuff is ridiculously silly and I got completely lost in all the spells and energy transfers towards the end of the story but I surprised myself in that I found it enormous fun to read.
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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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