Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Review by Joshua S Hill
There is something eminently satisfying about coming across a new author and finding that he is utterly brilliant. That is exactly what happened when I received Ben Aaronovitch’s book ‘Rivers of London’ the other day. I had been looking for books that were similar to Kate Griffin’s series of books focusing on Matthew Swift, and I came across Aaronovitch’s name (thank heavens for Amazon recommendations).
Diana Gabaldon is the author of several books and is quoted on the front of the book saying “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the fuzz”, which in my opinion is a quick and easy way to thoroughly underrate Aaronovitch’s work.
The quote had immediately put me off when I picked up the book – as had a few things in the blurb. I had expected a Harry Potter-esque tale in a world where everyone is slow to grasp what is happening. I expected similar aspects to Rowling and Griffin’s work, where the magic would be kept under wraps, hidden from the authorities, and would never emerge into the light of day.
Every time I thought that Aaronovitch was going to write himself into a trope, or a scene where he’d have to take the easy way out, I was surprised.
In fact, I was excited.
Ben Aaronovitch has written a book that never left me disappointed in the choices he made as author, nor in the choices of his characters. When ghosts appeared, people talked to them without freaking out. When the crimes were attributed to magic and relayed up the chain of police command, it was taken in stride. When it looked as if the ramifications of the magic were going to leak out into society and end up on the front page of the news, that’s exactly what happened (though, without it being attributed to magic … I didn’t want the whole world to know what was really going on, and that’s exactly the way that Aaronovitch wrote it).
In many ways, this book is a grown up version of Harry Potter. Magic exists. The authorities know about it and have taken certain measures. People are willing to believe it exists and is affecting the crimes they are investigating.
Just because the world works so well, doesn’t mean the characters would. But they do. Aaronovitch has a beautiful grasp on his characters that makes them realistic and fascinating. They’re not invulnerable, nor are they perfect. No one always makes the right decisions, and no one continually makes the wrong decisions. They are, in all respects, human (even the non-humans).
Aaronovitch has a lot to live up to, in my opinion, because Kate Griffin is definitely one of the best writers currently living and she has made an art out of making the city in which her books take place become a character as integral as the speaking-two-legged ones. While not as adept and intricate as Griffin, Aaronovitch does make London almost as tangible to the reader as Griffin does. He is not as detailed, which could be a good thing, and he doesn’t make his characters walk as much as Griffin makes hers, so you miss a little bit that way as well. But neither of those things are a bad point against him, they just make him different from Griffin, which in and of itself is almost as good as being the same as her.
All in all, you have to read this book. Whether you like good writing, good fantasy or urban fantasy, good characters, or simply a breath-taking story set in a breath-taking world, this book is for you. Because it is all of those things, and much much more. Aaronovitch has written a book that will surely become a favourite on many shelves the moment they’ve finished it at 3 in the morning.
Lena from Norway
I really liked the connection between magic and science and also that it's set in modern London. This book gets along without all the mystery, legends and pseudo-historic things that are normally found in fantasy book. A very entertaining book, however it won't change my life. PS.: Read a more complete review here: http://lightsandtraces.blogspot.de/2013/05/rivers-of-london.html
Karen from England
It isn't quite a crime novel, and it isn't quite a fantasy novel, but it is very, very good... was recommended to me by somebody else (who obviously knows what they're talking about), read it in a couple of sittings, and am two-thirds of the way through number two in the series, with number three lined up ready to go, that's how hooked I am. It's always good to find a new author, and even better to find one that doesn't disappoint you after the first book, and that's happened to me more times than I care to think about. Read it now!
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