19 February 2016

Books: Midnight Riot (Rivers of London) By Ben Aaronovitch (2011)

Ben Aaronovitch started his career on TV in the late 1980s, writing for Doctor Who, (Remembrance of the Daleks, which he adapted into a book and Battlefield). He also penned several original Doctor Who novels in Virgin’s New Adventures series back in the 1990s that included Transit, The Also People, and So Vile a Sin. He also spent time writing episodes of the British series Jupiter Moon and a 1990 episode of the long-running medical drama Casualty. 

In 2011, Aaronovitch began a series of urban fantasy novels that added the aspect of also being a police procedural, thus, Midnight Riot is the first volume (though released in England under its original title, Rivers of London). The novel centers on the adventures of Peter Grant, a young officer in the Metropolitan Police force who, after an unexpected encounter with a ghost, is recruited into the small branch of the Met that deals with magic and the supernatural (think The X Files meets Harry Potter meets CSI). Peter Grant, having become the first English apprentice wizard in over seventy years, must immediately deal with two different but ultimately inter-related cases. In one he must find who is possessing ordinary people and turning them into vicious killers, and in the second he must broker a peace between the two warring gods of the River Thames and their respective families.

This series gets off to a promising start, though once again I tend to get confused on the colloquiums and other British slang, which is strange considering my love for the British. And one might need a handy map of London to keep track of all the street names, along with a detailed history of London’s rivers and tributaries. Still, Peter Grant is an interesting hero, one of mixed heritage (which was a great idea) and snappy one-liners, something that is enduring and not as irritating as it could be. Unlike Paul Cornell’s (who also wrote for Doctor Who) similar themed novels London Falling (2013) and Severed Streets (2014), though, Aaronovitch is having fun with the format. He takes his history seriously and seems to know his stuff, but the story is light and not as gruesome (well, less gory) as others in this new sub-genre of fantasy. So the book is witty, imaginative, and often very clever. 

I guess I’ll have to add another series to my every growing list of series books that I seriously need to stop doing.

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