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Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch – review

Ben Aaronovitch’s fantasy/crime world offers some much-needed respite as dissertation deadlines and exam period draw ever closer

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I have three essays due and so naturally spent Easter catching up on my “To Read” list. I spent a very contented time reading Ben Aaronovitch’s series Rivers of London, which follows Police Constable Peter Grant, a policeman who seems destined for an average career in the Metropolitan police, until he meets a ghost and finds himself recruited by a special division of the Met to help deal with all things supernatural and magical. Of course to deal with the occult, you need a particular skill set, so Peter is also now a wizard in training.

This isn’t a pure fantasy series, although it does delight the wannabe sorceress in me, the books follow a progression more akin to the crime genre. Aaronovitch cleverly interweaves police investigation with magical pursuit, as PC Grant investigates a brutal series of murders which are beyond the understanding of the standard police. This genre overlap means that a cast of classic police characters – the gruff but fair Detective Inspector, the maverick young gun – is mixed with some more mythical types. My particular favourites are the host of deities belonging to the River Thames, including Mama Thames, a Nigerian matriarch, and her tributaries, her headstrong daughters like Tyburn and Fleet.

The series consists of three books so far: Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground, with the fourth in the series, Broken Homes, due out this July. While it’s unlikely to be described as great literature, the writing style and story are undoubtedly absorbing and fresh. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and Aaronovitch offers a new perspective on magic which fits nicely into the modern setting of London.

Having discovered the back panel and not Narnia in my wardrobe as a child, and subsequently being snubbed by the Hogwarts owl on my 11th birthday, this book leaves me with hope that magic still has time to enter my adult life. I definitely recommend it as a great escape from thoughts of exams or essays, and while of course I’d never condone procrastination, everyone needs a break from it all sometimes.