Midnight Riot - Ben Aaronovitch Interesting plot line, a blend of urban magic, ghost horror tale, and a police detective story, but there are problems in this book that make me doubt I’ll ever pick up another books by this author. So what didn’t I like?

The novel had an alternative title in the UK, Rivers of London, and both titles fit. There are two independent stories in this one novel, but their connecting points are practically nonexistent. They don’t enrich each other. They don’t interweave. They’re glued together for no reason I could fathom, except the word count of the novel. Each story could be published independently, and with some minor adjustments, nobody would ever suspect they might be combined into one novel.

Characterization is weak. I don’t see the heroes except for some details of their appearances. Nightingale, the wizard, is an old-fashioned white guy, while Peter Grant, the protagonist, is a mulatto and young. The writer worked for TV before starting this novel, and his TV attitude shows. The book reads like a TV script, as if Mr. Aaronovitch is expecting actors to come forth and infuse life into his characters. Furthermore, the female characters are all blurry. Only one more or less important female character shows up for the Midnight Riot part of the novel, Leslie, Peter’s love interest, but I’m not sure how she looks, what are her habits, even what is her hair color, although I’m certain the author mentioned it somewhere in the beginning of the story. In the Rivers of London part of the book, there are lots of female characters, but they could all be combined into one amorphous female ‘she’. She would serve the plot just as well.

Nightingale is supposed to be Peter’s mentor in magic, but he never explains anything. I’m surprised Peter takes it in stride. If I were a student of such a taciturn teacher, his approach to teaching would’ve driven me mad. As a reader, I’m irritated at the piling mysteries of Nightingale’s magic. I really want to know how it works, but the guy keeps mum, and so does the author, as if their combined silence can facilitate Peter’s education. It can’t. A teacher is supposed to talk. When he doesn’t, his student suffers and blunders.

The story is based on London geography. Street names, river names, highways and neighborhoods pepper the narrative, and only London natives can actually navigate among them. As a reader, I skimmed past those names as if they were written in Chinese. Most of them, except one or two, didn’t matter anyway. Again, the author’s TV heritage comes to the fore, but in a novel, no director is available to film the action in the right location. Frustrating, really.

And lastly, too much bloodshed. I hate bloody novels.

That’s it for what I didn’t like. What did I like in this novel?

I liked the story; it was very imaginative although it could’ve been executed better. I liked the writing: very clean and professional, although nothing original. I liked the unusual protagonist: a police constable and a budding wizard, a smart and charming young man, although most of his character traits I had to make up for myself. The author didn’t provide them. Maybe that’s why I liked the guy.

Overall, an average novel with little emotional involvement on everyone’s parts: the author, the characters, and the reader.