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Old Man & Old Lady Thames.
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch
Member Name: QueenElf
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch
Advantages: New series, Great story, funny as well as highly readable.
Introducing a Brand New Wizard.
One of the taglines on this suggests it's what would happen if Harry Potter joined the Fuzz, another says 'Magical, mysterious and mesmerizing.' I like to think of it as a combination of all my favourite genres rolled into one. But let's see what the plot is about.
Peter Grant is a lowly probationary constable in the Metropolitan police force, a lad who maybe has a habit of getting easily distracted by girls, food and staying out of a boring job in the dreaded Case Progression Unit (a desk job). Being a junior officer he's a natural choice to stand around the perimeter of a crime scene at 6 0'clock in the morning at Covent Garden, London. The crime is a particularly nasty one with a headless corpse found earlier by a drunken out of work actor. That could have been the extent of Peter's involvement if he hadn't been quite so lazy and allowed his fellow officer Lesley May to go and get the coffees.
While he's waiting and lurking around by St Paul's Church out of the cold, he meets a man who says he saw the murder happen and is eager to tell all. Unfortunately for Peter, the witness may know a thing or two but when Lesley comes back with the coffees, the man disappears- Peter has just interviewed his first ghost!
Naturally he finds this puzzling and upsetting, certainly put out since he wanted to boast to Lesley (who he's attracted to being female and pretty). Being able to see ghosts does have some advantages as Peter finds out when he meets the enigmatic Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. It just happens that Nightingale could do with a little help, which is how Peter finds himself apprentice to a wizard, living in a place called the Folly and a member of a largely unknown and under populated task force investigating the unusual, the arcane and the unwanted. At least that's how it initially is seen. But before long it becomes obvious that there's a side of London rarely seen and it has some mysterious ways about it, along the rivers of London.
Meet The Family.
One thing that comes across clearly in the characters of the book is their love of London and their families. This extends from Peter's dysfunctional family (mixed race, manic mother, weed smoking musical father), to the 'Family' that's the Police force and ultimately to the strange population of London's hidden side. These include Trolls, goblins, vampires, ghosts and the Gods, in particular the River Gods.
I found this hilarious at first then wanted to believe in them, a bit like the Cornish Piskies and the Welsh nature sprites. The author gives us a huge family with Father Thames and Mother Thames locked in a conflict over territory and their offspring taking sides. Imagine a rustic farmer type who lives by the River source, yet can appear every bit as dangerous as a Roman or Celtic God. The females are even more glamorous yet terrifying. Playful one moment and deadly the next. They all want the same outcome though, the London they know is under threat and normal policemen can do little. It's up to Inspector Nightingale and Peter to track down the source of the disturbances while placating the underworld.
Underneath the Arches.
Funnily enough I visit London frequently as my daughter, son-in-law and grandson live there. Growing up in Wales I had a natural suspicion of the Big City or the Sassenachs, and lumped it all together as noisy, polluted and dangerous. In this book it is actually that, though the pollution is generally not thrown up in the faces of the River Gods and their family (tributaries). I found that aspect of the book very charming in many ways as I've discovered a rare part of The City is actually green and pleasant. Some of the places around Richmond and Kew are quite lovely and even in the parts that are more rundown; I've found a sort of quiet contentment, interspersed with the flare-ups common to any city.
I also sense something underneath the 'glamour' that is London, the hidden parts where it's easy to imagine all sorts of characters straight from the pen of Dickens. I love finding the hidden canals and rivers that suddenly appear from an underground stream to join mighty Father Thames, so it came as no surprise that the book makes much of this hidden underbelly and the sneaking suspicion that there is something unknown and frightening under the Arches and highways that form the City routes.
It makes the story even more intriguing by suggesting the presence of ghosts and other shadowy characters that have lived a very long time, long enough to take Peter back on a trip through time to the very founding of the City in a desperate attempt to stop a madman whose power can literally rip the face off people. This upsets the Faery world, as much as it does the world we know, so with Inspector Nightingale temporarily unable to teach Peter more Wizardry, he has to dig deep and use his own resources.
I expected something quite different from what I actually got from the book and that was a new and exciting writer with a fresh perspective on the different types of strangeness that I've called Faery for want of a better word. In giving it the old spelling it means something like creatures that are alive but not human and very dangerous along with a subtle allure. It's a little like vampires but much more down to earth and even sexy. I found parts of the book extremely funny but with a wry humour rather than slapstick. I loved the parts where the ghost appears and runs rings round hid adversaries, but I also loved the character of Peter with his youthful cynicism thoroughly put to the test.
I also loved the characters that make up the magic part of the Rivers in the book and thought how apt many were. This is the first in a series of books about the Police force and the very real work they do along with a fantasy world where the 'Fuzz' work alongside characters such as Inspector Nightingale and his minions. It's a lovely read that will charm and frighten by degrees across the board of age and taste. I can see it being lapped up by lovers of the current Vampire vogue but also to people like myself who like a bit of fun laced with terror and a damn good story to boot.
Definitely recommended by me, it gets the full five stars. It's not great literature, but it's streets ahead of the Demon/Vampire/Werewolf vogue. I expect a lot from new author Ben Aaronovitch and I'm sure he won't let me down.
RRP £7.99 in paperback. 392 pages with a 28-page taster of the new book 'Moon Over Soho.'
Thanks for reading.
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Summary: Something here for everyone.