I like a little sugar in my tea, a smidgen of cheese on that cracker, some garnish on a salad (but not too much) and ... (running out of food metaphors)... something novel in a novel.
‘Rivers of London’ made me yearn for some sort or mind-sync technology so I could enjoy each and every word at the exact same moment as my friends because it is crammed to bursting with quotable lines and laugh-out-loud moments.
The story was fantastically imaginative and full of fun and Cockney quirk. Aaronovitch's magical London is imbued with an infectious passion for his home-town and is brought to life by his intimate knowledge of the real city. The characters are wonderfully colourful and idiosyncratic creations but not farcically so and the villain was darkly comic and, I thought, truly sinister.
Peter Grant, Detective Constable with the Metropolitan Police and surprisingly amenable, if slightly bewildered, trainee wizard was not just the main character; he was a charmingly guileless, self-deprecating, realistically flawed, occasionally unreliable and quizzical companion, questioning and reacting and discovering right alongside me and, when I was finished the book, I truly missed his pithy and self-deprecating wit. For the audiobook version, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, the narrator, proved to be the perfect voice for Peter – it really was a rare and flawless performance.
There are feint traces of Dr. Who, the series on which Aaronovitch cut his writing teeth, particularly in the relationship between Peter and the enigmatic Nightingale and in the transformation of the mundane into the magical. However, and this is akin to blasphemy in my circles, I'm not a big fan of Dr. Who so this shouldn't put anyone off reading it.
As an aside, I was a little sad that the title was changed to ‘Midnight Riot’ for the international audience, lest they confuse it with a geographical reference book – it is annoying, not to mention a little ironic, when publishers don’t assume good sense from their target audience - plus the original title was far more appropriate and just plain better. Also there was, apparently, some controversy regarding the earlier editions of the U.S. cover being changed to better disguise the fact that the protagonist is black *super-massive-eyeroll*.
My instinct is to recommend this book without hesitation however; I can see why some people might not enjoy it. It’s geeky, much of the humour and many references are quintessentially British (or at least what British people like to put out there as quintessentially British) and it is not in the least bit introspective – just pure entertainment, thrills, spills, chills, laughs, cleverness and all-round awesome.
Honestly, I could quote this book all day long and not get bored... and on that note I'm going to let Aaronvitch's words speak for themselves:
“Fuck me, I thought. I can do magic.”
“Which is how I came to be standing around Covent Garden, in a freezing wind, at six o'clock in the morning, and why it was me that met the ghost. Sometimes I wonder whether, if I’d been the one that went for coffee and not Lesley May, my life would have been much less interesting and certainly much less dangerous. Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I'm considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, ‘Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”
“What with the proliferation of gay pubs, clubs and chat rooms, it is no longer necessary for the single man about town to frequent public toilets and graveyards on freezing nights to meet the man of their immediate needs. Still, some people like to risk frostbite on their nether regions – don’t ask me why.”
""Are they really gods?"
"I never worry about theological questions," said Nightingale. "They exist, they have power and they can breach the Queen's peace - that makes them a police matter.""
"We can't have your people fighting each other," I said. The 'royal we' is very important in police work; it reminds the person you're talking to that behind you stands the mighty institution that is the Metropolitan Police, robed in the full majesty of the law and capable, in manpower terms, of invading a small country. You only hope when you're using that term that the whole edifice is currently facing in the same direction as you are."
"As I stepped onto the gloomy landing a word formed in my mind: two syllables, starts with a V and rhymes with dire. I froze in place. Nightingale said that everything was true, after a fashion, and that had to include vampires, didn't it? I doubted they were anything like they were in books and on TV, and one thing was for certain — they absolutely weren't going to sparkle in the sunlight."