Monday, July 6, 2015

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch Book Review: London’s Harry Dresden

Audible is great. If you like audiobooks, I can’t recommend them enough. They seem to always have sales, and you can pick up good books on the cheap. I was able to pick up Midnight Riot through an Audible editor sale for 4.95. It was well worth the 4.95 price tag, and it would have been worthy of my precious monthly audible credit. Midnight riot is an urban fantasy novel set in London. It has the unique twist of our main character actually being a policeman, instead of an outsider. The higher ups in the government seem to also sanction and approve of the special “sorcerer division” within the metropolitan police department. They may not like it, but they know things that go bump in the night exist, and magic users are needed.
Enter Peter Cline, probationary copper. He’s just about to be placed on assignment, when while guarding a crime scene he is approached by an eye witness to the murder. The only issue is this witness is a ghost. Thus Peter is introduced into the magical world. It isn’t quite as grandiose a reveal as in Harry Potter, nor is he an already seasoned wizard like Harry Dresden, jeez what is it with wizards named Harry? He is just a beat cop who had dreams of being a detective. Instead he gets to train to be a wizardJ.
Aaronovitch does a great job of setting the scene. London comes alive in his story. I have never been to the UK, but I feel like I could find places based on his descriptions in the book. The city is part of the magic. It holds vestigia, or magical radar. Peter can since the vestigia from other magical creatures, along with structures in the city. Stone holds vestigia, and ghost can imprint on locations.  Old historical sites, as in London are rich in magic and vestigia. It’s an interesting twist, and I enjoyed Aaronovitch magical world. It has a more scientific approach. Newton is not only the founder of science, but practical magic as well. Peter, the main character, tries to experiment himself and figure out why magic affects technology, like ruining his new cellphones.
Peter is an interesting main character. We only see from his perspective, which adds to the noir aspect of the novel. Peter is absentminded, easily distracted. During his assignments he will look at the historical plaques on the buildings, and not pay attention to the group of youth who could cause issues. It doesn’t make him a bad cop, just not the best. Honestly, he is extremely relatable, at least to me. I can be absentminded, shocker, and want to investigate the why and how to a problem, rather than just solving it. His magical mentor, Thomas Nightingale, keeps wondering why he wants to find out how technology is affected by magic. He thinks he should just focus on creating the limited spells he has told him to practice. Sensible, but Peter wants to continue to focus on his problems. He is also a nerd, which automatically endears him to me. Making jokes and references to Star Wars and Dr. Who others around him don’t understand. Aaronovitch has created an interesting world with a good main character and supporting cast.
The villain is a little lacking, and because of this the story falls a little flat. The first 2/3 is really good, and I was flying through. The last 1/3 just didn’t quite do it for me. The villain once revealed was an interesting take, but just didn’t suck me in. It was a tad abstract, which pulled away from the story and main plot. There is also a side story that gets integrated towards the end, but it seemed forced. The magic and other aspects are also obscure at this point. We don’t get a ton of explanations on certain aspects of the world, but I assume later novels will expand.  It’s what made the book go from excellent to good. I want to continue the series, just for the character and world. I’m hoping the writing style and plots get a tad better.
I got my money’s worth with Midnight Riot. Can’t beat a new interesting world, with a character who gets to explore the world with new eyes.  Even though the villain is a bit of a letdown, I am looking forward to continuing Peter Brown’s story and finding out how he becomes a wizarding policeman.

My Rating: Solid Start to a series

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