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Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Genre: Urban fantasy police procedural.
Setting: Modern London.
Themes: Violence, death, crime, gods, magic, ghosts.


Constable-in-training Peter Grant is facing a career at a desk, writing reports for other policemen, at the end of his probationary period, due to being easily distracted. Things start looking up when he meets a ghost at a murder scene he is guarding. Next thing he knows, he's been recruited into a special branch of the London police that deals with paranormal and supernatural crime, has become a wizard's apprentice and is learning how to use magic. However, finding out he's able to see ghosts and do magic is soon the least of Peter's worries as a series of bizarre acts of violence and murder sweep the city. To add to the confusion, the river gods of London seem to be heading into a turf war.

I first heard of this book when I was browsing the Discworld discussion forum on Reddit, where it was recommended as something a Discworld fan might like to read. So I did some googling and decided it sounded like my cup of tea and ordered it.What I found was nothing like Pratchett, but still funny, intricately plotted and well-written, with an engaging narrator and an interesting supporting cast.

Aaronovitch draws on the tradition of classic whodunnits and police procedurals and mixes it with magic, but magic that follows scientific principles, many of which were discovered and codified by none other than Sir Isaac Newton. Therefore magic is not just a matter of doing some spells and poof! you have magic. The power for the magic has to come from somewhere, and Peter discovers that doing a spell will fry any nearby electrically connected device containing a microchip. This means he has found a reliable, solid way of knowing if magic has been done, but it also means he ends up having to replace his cell phone several times throughout the book.

There is murder, mayhem and violence in this story, but also plenty of funny incidents and interactions and interesting characters, and I have already ordered book number two, Moon over Soho, from the Book Depository.

Highly recommended for fans of both urban fantasy and whodunnits.

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