A wonderful fantasy story set in the heart of London, revealing a side of it we never knew existed.
Rivers of London follows Constable Peter Grant as he passes his probationary period at the metropolitan police and is taken on in by a different department; Economic and Specialist Crime. It all started with the murder of William Skirmish on the steps of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. He was standing guard over the crime scene when a witness appeared, a witness who happened to be dead.
From that point Grant is launched into a long running investigation while coming to terms with the strangeness of the supernatural world he’d stumbled into. He moves to The Folly and learns magic from his master and not only is he tasked with solving a supernatural murder, but he has to broker peace between the rivers of London.
Ben Aaronovitch has done a fantastic job with this book, while it’s set in the real world it has so many fantastical elements to it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was elsewhere. His observations of the world around the main character are excellent, and occasionally reminiscent of Terry Pratchett because of the witty one liners scattered throughout the story. The writing as a whole is very clever, the dialogue really warms you up to the characters, each word they say going towards building themselves up, and the narrative just keeps you hooked.
As well as clever writing you’ll find a clever plot hidden in the pages, not wanting to give anything away about what happens all I can say is that it’s well thought out. The reason for the murder and the way it’s done are kept very low-key that you don’t see the link until the main character does. Aaronovitch has done a good job of hoodwinking the reader so he can keep his tricks hidden until he wants them revealed. The best part is that while the story for the first book came to an end, there are enough questions left unanswered to make you want to go and buy the rest of the series immediately.
As it’s set in London most of the places mentioned in the book are well known, much of the plot revolves around Covent Garden and you can really imagine it happening because the setting is so clear in your mind. Mixed with the few mentions of shops and companies we’re all familiar with (Waterstones, Royal Opera House, Disney Store) you really connect with the characters because you’ve been to the places they’ve been to.
While it’s an intelligent book it’s still a nice and easy read, which counts for a lot. It’s gripping, fast-paced and extremely entertaining. If you absolutely love fantasy then this is a must read book. Rivers of London is the beginning of a highly addictive and memorable fantasy series.