This is actually the first book I’ve read in 2012 and since I’ve finished another four books since then, it should tell you how much I’ve been struggling with this review. It’s a bit of a strange book to write about really – I enjoyed it’s inventiveness but at the same time it was occasionally an effort to continue reading. On the bright side, this is the first book to be knocked off my TBR Challenge – only forty-nine left to go!
My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). 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 Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.
Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: 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 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.
Wow. That’s a long blurb. It still doesn’t really describe the central theme of the book though, because it’s way more complicated than that. I can’t quite decide if it’s spoilery or not to mention it, so I won’t bother for now; just know that it’s not even hinted at in the summary. It is quite creative and original though – I’ve don’t think I’ve ever seen an even vaguely similar idea in a novel before.
I picked up Rivers of London expecting to fall in love, but unfortunately I just didn’t. Perhaps it just suffered from the weight of my too-heavy expectations, but the best I can say is a profound ‘meh,’ if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. The characters seemed all completely flat and one-dimensional – even Peter Grant’s voice is lifeless and he’s supposed to be the main character. The others all seemed to run into each other – there were no distinct personalities to really make you sit up and go ‘Hey, I like her!’
There are some wonderful, wonderful ideas in this book and a few of the jokes made me giggle out loud. It’s funny without consciously trying to be, so it doesn’t stumble over its own awkwardness. It seems to have a very British humour and I loved the references – he mentions minor shops in London (especially Covent Garden) that really are located where he says. I remember them from my last visit and I will admit the knowledge gave me a small twinge of smugness.
“Oi!” I said “What do you think you’re doing?”
Despite that, the premise and humour was enough to prompt me to have already purchased the second book, Moon Over Soho. Hopefully Mr. Aaronovitch will have brought some of the same brilliant ideas to the table, but perhaps slow down enough to explain them properly.