Book Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Harry Potter for adults.

I was recommended this book by a colleague, in fact I was given this and the next book in the series by them to read. I had never heard of these books before so I went in completely blind. And I loved it.

The book follows Probationary Constable Peter Grant who when taking witness statements after a murder in the streets of London, accidentally interviews a ghost. At first he doesn’t know what to believe, but then again, he talked to the ghost himself and eventually Peter is dragged in to a world of ghosts, magic, and the unbelievable. He meets Thomas Nightingale and quickly become and apprentice wizard.

Aaronovitch’s writing is fun, light, intelligent, and highly entertaining, and this has to be the most British thing I’ve ever read. I lived in the UK in 5 years and though I wouldn’t say I know London by heart, I loved picking up all the little pieces of culture, geography and references I recognized. It took me back.

At first I was a bit annoyed at how chatty the book is. It often goes out on a tangent, rambling about something before getting back to the point and continuing on with the story and it was draining at first. Until I got really into it, then it was just hilarious.

The book is very serious, even though it’s light and fun, and I really liked the way the magic system was created. I won’t say too much, but there’s no waving of wands, instead it’s deeply rooted in history, science, and Latin. It’s not without reason I say that this is Harry Potter for adults. There’s an amazing sense of wonder in discovering a new layer of a city, a hidden world that you haven’t seen before but has always been there right before your eyes. I love that kind of stuff.

The ending fell a bit short I thought, feeling like the build up and the development of the characters was much more interesting than what actually happened plot-wise by the end. But that might just be me.

I’ve already started the second book in the series and if you’re looking for a funny, grown-up urban fantasy book that will take you on a magical tour through London and the heart of England, you’ll absolutely love this.


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