Book review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

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Fantasy is one of my favorite genre. I discovered Tolkien when I was 11 and I was enthusiastic. When I was 15, I discovered the Harry Potter series and I read the books again and again. I even began to read the books in English because I could not wait for them to be translated. Still today, I love reading Fantasy. Reading a good Fantasy book in the train before going to work is a great way to start the day. Currently, one of my favorite Fantasy series is Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.

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My book review: Rivers of London series

I bought the first book of the series a few years ago as I found it in my favorite bookshop. I liked the cover and I liked the idea behind the books. Rivers of London is indeed an urban fantasy series whose main character is Peter Grant, a British police officer working in the Special Assessment Unit of the Metropolitan Police in London.

The Special Assessment Unit deals with all cases related to magic or surnatural facts. The books are a mixture of urban fantasy and mystery as we follow the cases that Peter is confronted too. You should not expect a typical mystery book though. The adventure and the characters are often more important than the case itself.

In the first book, you see how Peter enters the Special Assessment Unit, also called the Folly after their building, after he unexpectedly meets a ghost. Until Peter’s arrival in the department, the only person working there was Peter’s boss Inspector Nightingale. Peter soon discovers that his new job is very different from what he has learnt as a young police officer. Inspector Nightingale teaches him magic… and latin! Peter also learns to recognize “vestigia”, the spurs that magic leaves in a place. And he tries to understand more about the nature of magic through scientific experiments, which Nightingale often sees as a loss of time.

I like very much the relationship between Peter and Inspector Nightingale. Nightingale becomes Peter’s mentor and friend but both men are come from very different backgrounds. Nightingale is much older than Peter. Actually no one can see how old he is because for some reason, he stopped aging, but he was in the British army during WW2. He comes from an old British family with a tradition of practicing magic and went to a magic school (not Hogwarts though, Peter already asked). Peter comes from a working class background. His mother comes from Sierra Leone and works has an office cleaner. His father is a British jazz musician. Although he is very talented, he never achieved real success in the music industry because he was a heroin addict. He stops taking drugs and resumes playing in a band thanks to Peter’s support. 

Female characters also play an important role in the series. For instance, Lesley May, who finished her probatory period as a police officer at the same time as Peter. She is actually much more brilliant than him and is one of the major characters of the series. River goddesses also play an important role in the books. The series’s name „Rivers of London“ comes indeed from the important role of Mother Thames and her daughters. Mother Thames was originally a Nigerian immigrant who jumped in the Thames to commit suicide but was „saved“ by the River Thames that offered her to become a river goddess. The different smaller rivers of London also have goddesses who are Mother Thames’ daughters. Another interesting female character is Peter’s teenage cousin Abigail who wants to be a ghost hunter.

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