Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1) 

Synopsis: 'My name is Peter Grant. Until January, I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - We do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May. Then one night, in persuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins. 
Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I'm dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden - and that's just routine. There's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. 
The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying. Which, I don't mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.'

I am not typically a fan of the Urban Fantasy genre; I'm more of an Epic Fantasy girl - give me books the size of bricks that are stuffed with dragons, swords, and sorcery. However, I will make an exception for an Urban Fantasy series that is inventive, original, and action-packed. And that's where the Peter Grant series comes in. 

Rivers of London is one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. Not quite up there with Harry Potter but pretty close. The main character is Peter Grant, a sarcastic, whip-smart police constable who discovers magic is real and starts training to be a wizard. Peter is so incredibly believable that sometimes I have to remind myself that he's not a real person. Same goes for all the other characters in the book: all of them are fleshed out so well, even the most minor ones. 

And can we please talk about the female characters in this book? They are so well-written, it just blows my mind. Whether we're talking about Lesley May, Beverly Brook or Mama Thames, they all have distinct, complicated personalities. None of them are just there to be simpering love interests. It's incredible. 

One of my favorite characters is Chief Inspector Thomas Nighingale, the last wizard in London and Peter's boss. I'm not completely sure but I have a strong suspicion that he's based on either Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston, judging by Nightingale's physical description: 'He was about one-eighty in height - that's six foot in old money - and dressed in a beautifully tailored suit that emphasized the width of his shoulders and a trim waist. I thought early forties, with long, finely boned features and brown hair cut into an old-fashioned side parting. It was hard to tell in the sodium light but I thought his eyes were grey.' p. 28

See what I mean? Mmmm, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston....

I'm sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, back to the book.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the unique magic system. Peter desperately wants to know how magic works but the trouble is no one has really figured it out yet. The only thing Nightingale knows for sure is that magic is generated by life, so in theory, anyone could learn how to do it. This detail makes it seem so scientific and that much more real. There's this really good part in the book where Peter is trying to explain it to Lesley: 

'"It's all real,' I said. 'Ghosts, magic, everything.'
'Then why doesn't everything seem different?' she asked.
'Because it was there in front of you all the time,' I said. 'Nothing's changed, so why should you notice anything?' ' p. 51

The book is filled with so much history and detail but it never bogs the story down or feels irrelevant. The action is fast-paced but never clumsy or confusing. It is all written so vividly that it plays like a film in my head when I'm reading it (as good books are supposed to do.) This book needs to be a TV show.

Oh it is getting made into a TV show? That's awesome.

I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans, particularly fans of Harry Potter. I will be reviewing the next three books in the series so stay tuned. 

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