The Rivers of London series is very much a personal favourite of mine. Ben Aaronovitch is a writer who can make you understand his characters after just one chapter with them. I was introduced to him personally through a Doctor Who classic, ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ – this won’t be the only mention of the Time Lord in this column – and when I first realised the Rivers of London was his writing I had to get the first audiobook in the series.
The basic idea of the series is relatively simple: Imagine the Metropolitan Police Service had a ‘Special Assessment Unit’ or a ‘Falcon’ team. In simple terms the SAU deals with anything magical ranging from the ancient gods of the Rivers to vampires to a lot of old customs that have considerably more power than the average everyday person realises.
There’s just one problem. In audiobook number one the entire unit is one man. DI Thomas Nightingale: Britain’s only officially trained wizard. Nightingale needs a student. Huzzah for Peter Grant, who just finished his training alongside a close friend…and who just took a statement from a ghost.
Comparatively audiobook 7 is a lot more intense. It acts as the finale to the current arc in the series and by this point Peter is a lot more knowledgeable. Still ‘incident prone’(don’t ask about what happened at Kew Gardens. He’s still a little sensitive about that) but able to handle himself. Peter as a character is absolutely brilliant. He’s a witty and incredibly geeky modern day policeman compared to Nightingale’s upper class Englishman. They both have learned a lot from each other but they have plenty more to learn and The Faceless Man – The main overall villain of the series to date – has to be dealt with. His final plan is in motion and the Met has to stop him magic or no magic.
Let me deal with one potential comparison right now. This series is not anything close to a certain magical wonder child. For starters if magic is misused or a practitioner isn’t properly trained it has a particularly gruesome side effect. You can either cause your brain to explode or inflict a self-induced slowly building aneurysm upon yourself.
And that’s just for starters!
I knew I’d have to review something from this series as soon as I started this column. It was the audiobooks of this series that were the point I remembered audiobooks had a magic all their own. This particular series is narrated by a gentleman called Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and he is absolutely perfect for it. He knows exactly how to make Peter simultaneously someone who is genuinely interested in learning about magic and all its forms as well as all the various kinds of magical creatures long thought invented by man as well as someone who is very quick with the witty or somewhat sarcastic replies. And Peter isn’t the only excellent character in the series. Without spoiling anything Dr Walid is a good example of the professional but slightly too curious medical professional, Abigail – Peter’s cousin – is a hilarious example of the irritatingly precocious child type character and amongst others Beverly Brook and Sahra Guleed are two of my favourite female characters across all media.
I am one hundred percent serious when I say that if rumours of a television adaptation come to fruition I will be hoping and praying for Kobna to have a major role. I understand that my article this week has come across as somewhat gushing but I genuinely hope that some of my readers will join me in being fans of this series. I have to thank Mr Aaronovitch for writing what has fast become my favourite book series in recent memory.
Even if police stories or magic stories aren’t usually your cup of tea I highly recommend giving the first book in the series a try. Lies Sleeping is an excellent conclusion to the current arc that leaves plenty of doors open for book 8 when it gets released and several important characters have very substantial roles in the plot.
All I have to say in conclusion is…you can read or listen without any obligation. But don’t anger Lady Ty…