Nataliya's Reviews > Rivers of London

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
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bookshelves: 2012-reads, first-in-a-series, location-is-the-true-protagonist
Recommended to Nataliya by: Catie

Rivers of London is a fun mix of so many things that I love in my pleasure reads - the geekiness and the science¹, the dry British humor², and the magical/mythical/phantasmagorical stuff in a big city³. What's not to like?



¹ My whole life, basically. Really.
² Examples - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, even some of China Miéville's stuff.
³ Examples - Harry Dresden books, China Miéville, Neil Gaiman, even Sir Terry.
"Carved above the lintel were the words SCIENTIA POTESTAS EST. Science points east, I wondered? Science is portentous, yes? Science protests too much. Scientific potatoes rule. Had I stumbled on the lair of dangerous plant geneticists?"
The US-titled Midnight Riot (which used to be called Rivers of London before some American publisher undoubtedly decided that the target audience should NOT be aspiring US-based geographers) is a great read for me, a self-proclaimed devout Dresdenite (as in Harry Dresden, the Chicago wizard for hire, and not so much the German city). It has all the surface similarities to that series - a magically-inclined PI constable collaborating with the police force of a big city to solve magical crimes, while interacting with a slew of mythical creatures and engaging in self-deprecating pop-culture-references-laden humor (and, in case of Peter Grant, lacking the borderline-misogynous chivalry).



But before you, those who do not share my affection for the Dresden universe, run away screaming from this book, please listen - it apparently appealed even to those who cannot stand Harry Dresden. All the similarities aside, this book has a very distinct and fun voice, and is less pulpy, much lighter on the magical stuff and whimsy, and heavier on dry humor and police procedurals as well as geekiness than the Chicago wizard books.
"I'd like to say that I remembered the practice of exchanging hostages from school history classes or from stories of precolonial life in Sierra Leone, but the truth was that it came up while playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was thirteen."
Peter Grant is joining the ranks of my favorite characters with his self-deprecating humor firmly rooted in pop-culture and modern world, as well as his own complicated family dynamics. A probationary constable who is recruited into a small (now consisting of 2 people) department of London police dealing with the supernatural, he approaches learning magic from a viewpoint of a natural scientist, carrying out experiments, creating theories, and even using science and valid deductions to counteract the villain in one of the major confrontations. All helped along with humor, and told in a narrative voice that is very even-keeled, even when the protagonist is faced with a life-or-death situation, and which, in my opinion, adds to the appeal of this story.
"We did an hour of practice, at the end of which I was capable of flinging a fireball down the range at the dizzying speed of a bumblebee who'd met his pollen quota and was taking a moment to enjoy the view."



And the city - Ben Aaronovitch's love for London is contagious. London is very much a character in this story, and way more than just a setting. The history, the streets, the landmarks, even the rivers in this story are captivating. I love when that happens in books, and I thoroughly enjoyed it in this story.
"Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the "London once-over" - a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like BASE jumping or crocodile wrestling."
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But wait there for a second, Nataliya, you must be wondering, if you loved this book so much then (a) why don't you marry it? and (b) why the hell did you just 3-star it, huh??? Well, here's why. While I love the narrative voice and the protagonist to pieces, I find the storyline(s) not very memorable or compelling. I'm sure I'll remember Peter Grant for years to come, but I'll be hard pressed to remember what the hell the story was about. No, it's not hard to follow, but it's just not that memorable, and, honestly, not that engrossing. Moreover, the two main stories in this book, aptly represented by the titles that the different sides of the ocean have chosen - Midnight Riot and Rivers of London - felt to me quite separate from each other, connected only by the fact that Peter Grant was involved in both of them. I think Aaronovitch should have either connected them together in a more meaningful way, or has chosen one of them to focus on.

Despite my gripes with the storylines, I was so enamored with the narration and the humor and the protagonist that I will without a doubt read the next book in the series, and will highly recommend this one. Peter Grant for the win! 3.5 stars.
"If you ask any police officer what the worst part of the job is, they will always say breaking bad news to relatives, but this is not the truth. The worst part is staying in the room after you've broken the news, so that you're forced to be there when someone's life disintegrates around them. Some people say it doesn't bother them - such people are not to be trusted."
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By the way, here is my review of the second book in the series, Moon Over Soho.

For the review of the third book, Whispers Underground, head over here, and for the fourth one, Broken Homes, over here.
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Quotes Nataliya Liked

Ben Aaronovitch
“Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the "London once-over" - a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like BASE jumping or crocodile wrestling.”
Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot

Ben Aaronovitch
“If you ask any police officer what the worst part of the job is, they will always say breaking bad news to relatives, but this is not the truth. The worst part is staying in the room after you've broken the news, so that you're forced to be there when someone's life disintegrates around them. Some people say it doesn't bother them - such people are not to be trusted.”
Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot


Reading Progress

June 28, 2012 – Shelved
July 15, 2012 – Started Reading
July 15, 2012 –
0.0% "Reading the Kindle free sample. Let's see if it gets me hooked ;)"
July 15, 2012 –
6.0% "Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the "London once-over" - a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like BASE jumping or crocodile wrestling."
July 15, 2012 –
45.0%
July 16, 2012 –
73.0%
July 18, 2012 –
90.0%
July 19, 2012 –
100.0% "I'd like to say that I remembered the practice of exchanging hostages from school history classes or from stories of precolonial life in Sierra Leone, but the truth was that it came up while playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was thirteen."
July 19, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-34 of 34 (34 new)

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message 1: by Richard (last edited Jul 21, 2012 01:45PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Richard Derus I'm away from the book reading some marvelous things (eg, The Lifeboat), but thy review, o mistress of the art, says it all so concisely I suspect I won't need to write one!


Nataliya Awww, Richard, you are always so kind. Oh but please write your review - they are such a pleasure to read!


Richard Derus But what else is there to say? "I liked it, and I ***LOATHE*** Harry Bloody Dresden, the end." You hit on my problem with the book, and the reason I can spend weeks away from it: These stories aren't terribly interesting, but the characters are, and the dry humour is a treat.

Next!

I mean, really, Doc, how am I meant to compete with the above? You did it all. If I find something it looks to me like you didn't say, that is something worth saying, I'll write one.

And thank you for the compliment, that was nice of you!


Nataliya Ahhh, Richard, you break my heart just a bit with your hate of Harry Dresden! But hey, I cannot choose who I love, right? As my mother would say (in Russian), "Любовь зла, полюбишь и козла". Which can be roughly translated as, "Love is evil, you can love a donkey". Or you can replace the word 'donkey' in this sentence with 'ass' and the meaning will be the same. That's the story of me and Harry Dresden...

I hope the plot in the next book in this series is more memorable, but I'm very much okay reading it just for the humor and the characters, just like you said.


Catie You know - that might actually be a wonderful selling point for these books: It's Harry Dresden for people who LOATHE Harry Dresden.

(Oh, and great review! I really do agree with you about the story lines, and unfortunately I don't think that really improves over the course of the series.)


Nataliya Thanks, Catie. And that's too bad - I was hoping that the plots would tighten and the story would become better. But as long as Peter Grant continues to deliver his awesome humorous lines, I'm in!

Hey, just out of sheer curiosity - was it Dresden's uber-annoying misogynistic-ish attitude that turned you off that series or was there something else as well?


message 7: by Toby (new)

Toby I got one chapter in to this before the "Douglas Adams light" voice of Peter Grant irritated me in to giving both books in the series away.

I made the assumption it was because I am English but he's quite popular so it can't be that and perhaps I'm just an old curmudgeon these days.

It seemed to me that he was trying too hard to be funny and make statements about Britain at the same time, coming off as a grumpy old man who's sick of his life in a tourist bookshop in Covent Garden.


Nataliya Tfitoby wrote: "I got one chapter in to this before the "Douglas Adams light" voice of Peter Grant irritated me in to giving both books in the series away.

I made the assumption it was because I am English but h..."


That's interesting. So maybe the reason I liked the voice of Peter Grant so much is because I'm not English, and therefore it's fresh and pleasantly different.


message 9: by Toby (new)

Toby It could be. But then again I think he's shifting a fair few units in England and there's a demand for more books in the series which makes me consider my own opinion as so far off base it's crazy.


Nataliya Hey, that's fine. I get an uneasy feeling when everyone without an exception is in love with a book. Makes me think of mass hypnosis, surely ;)


message 11: by Toby (new)

Toby I know just the books you're thinking of.


Kelly H. (Maybedog) I'm midway through and I like it so far, too.


Nataliya Kelly wrote: "I'm midway through and I like it so far, too."

It's a fun read, isn't it? I can't wait to start the next one, but it may be a few days until I have enough free time for that. I'm having Peter Grant withdrawal!


Algernon (Darth Anyan) I'm almost finished with the third book. You have two more to look forward to, but I will have one year or more to wait for the next Peter Grant fix. count me as another one who has given up on Harry Dresden and really enjoys these London trips.


Nataliya Algernon wrote: "I'm almost finished with the third book. You have two more to look forward to, but I will have one year or more to wait for the next Peter Grant fix. count me as another one who has given up on Har..."

I will join you in that waiting rather soon. I'm starting the second book tonight and hope to finish it by next week.


message 16: by Anji (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anji I am about to read my first Aaronovitch novel,which I stumbled upon through a limk from one of my fav authors Christopher Fowler. Please people,if you have never read any of his books,I suggest you do,his Bryant and May mysteries are superb. full of quirky humour,absorbing mysteries,a touch of the supernatural and full of information about the hidden history of London. Highly recommended!


message 17: by Kelly H. (Maybedog) (last edited Aug 09, 2012 09:43AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kelly H. (Maybedog) I didn't realize Fowler wrote Disturbia. I have the first Briant and May on my to-read list as it was highly recommended. I'm just worried it will be really sad since it's the last case they ever work together.


Amanda Markham Since it's 'British' you really should spell humour correctly... With the 'u' in it cos without u, it's not funny.


Nataliya Amanda wrote: "Since it's 'British' you really should spell humour correctly... With the 'u' in it cos without u, it's not funny."

Can I atone for my American spelling by drinking British tea when I read the next book in the series?


Richard Derus *attempts to glamour away knowledge of his idol Nataliya's taste for retch tea*


Kelly H. (Maybedog) Richard, now you're just confusing me.


Nataliya Richard wrote: "*attempts to glamour away knowledge of his idol Nataliya's taste for retch tea*"

*tries to look all innocent and whistles nonchalantly while discreetly pouring a cup of tea into the sink just so that she doesn't disappoint Richard*


Alexandra After breezing through 'Whispers on the Underground' (which I wasn't aware was the THIRD book in the series) I've managed to get this beauty in my favourite bookshop. Totally loving it! From the 'prescribed Metropolitan Police "first greeting" to Peter's dry humour, it's as much fun as the third one. If not more! And the third book is definitely starting to make more sense now :)


Nataliya Having just recently finished "Whispers Under Ground", I can;t believe you started this series with the third book and still liked it enough to pick up the first book. Aaronovich does not spend much time recapping the events of the previous installments, and so I applaud you for being able to follow the story without the benefit of knowing the events of the previous two books.


Elisabeth yeah I hated Dresden, and I love this. Beyond the mystery + supernatural, they have nothing in common.


Llalania People loathe Dresden? Wow. I'll have to find out why because adore him.


Nailya I was trying to find a decent critical review snd this is what I got. You've certainly sold this one to me. :p


Nataliya Nailya wrote: "I was trying to find a decent critical review snd this is what I got. You've certainly sold this one to me. :p"

Glad to be of service!


message 29: by Nicotin (new) - added it

Nicotin nice ki


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Munmun Chaterjee Another Dresdenite here,who is absolutely enamoured with this book!


Lisa Z Me too.


Karina Another narrator fan here. He sounds like a young Luther (Idris Elba)


Rakhi Roy Dresdenite here ! Got my sister in to Harry and hoping peter will join the group too!
Bonus factor - the mind boggling quirky thought of trail peter falls into often. As a big Dr Who fan, this series gets the best shelf in my book case


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