Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight Riot by Ben AaronovitchMidnight Riot lives up to its name by providing a wonderful read, even if the title is referring to the other kind of riot. It’s a fantasy, mystery, British cop book offered with a dry, matter-of-fact tone that makes the whole scenario feel plausible. While the blurbs refer to it as a grownup Harry Potter, I found the relationship between the books largely superficial. Yes, you have a person discovering both that magic exists and he has magical abilities, but from there, the commonalities weaken. Instead, Midnight Riot reminds me more of the dry tone found in American Gods by Neil Gaiman, with one major exception: Peter Grant is actively involved with the magic, figuring it out and exploring his powers, from the moment he finds himself taking a witness statement from a ghost.

This book gives us an outsider view into a world of magic hidden behind politics and rules so old no one understands them completely. Grant meets more than just ghosts in his trek through a world he thought he knew, matching wits with gods as well. There are three stories running through Midnight Riot, connected and intertwined, but each with its own interest.

The main is a mystery. Just why, and how, would someone cut a man’s head clean off? That’s the very start of the book, and how Grant discovers the hidden existence of magic. He must investigate a crime the authorities have no wish to be known and using tools that he’ll be locked up for if he tries to explain. There’s a rocky balance between the public good and the disrespect given Thomas Nightingale, the only wizard allowed in London. Still, as a Constable, Grant has not shown much aptitude, and the magic fascinates him.

The other piece in common with Harry Potter is the second story of Grant’s induction and training in magic. However, unlike Harry, Grant suffers an indifferent teacher who expects ten years of study before anything interesting happens, and more like Hermione, Grant can’t help but explore the reason behind magic and identify how his teacher’s understanding is limited by a dedication to the original (known) texts.

The third story is that of the gods. It is more of an introduction to the role of the wizards in this society. The designated wizard is responsible for keeping the peace between magical entities while helping humanity sally forth in ignorance of what is happening all around it.

This multilayered tale offers interesting characters, a fun magical twist, and the indication, if I’m not mistaken, of further ventures at Peter Grant’s side as he rethinks generations of knowledge, putting a modern twist into a decidedly unmodern profession. In case you cannot tell, I enjoyed Ben Aaronovitch’s book a lot. It’s definitely worth the chance that you might enjoy it as well.

Note: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program, though it arrived after the mass release.

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2 Responses to Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

  1. jjmcgaffey says:

    Huh. And one of the things I liked best about the book was the way Nightingale treated Peter as an adult and an equal (not in magic, but as a person); ten years of study, yes, but when Peter went off on his own tracks and jumped in understanding Nightingale (after some initial complaints) went with him. Nightingale likes (is comfortable with) the old traditions, but when Peter stretches (if not breaks) them, Nightingale can handle it (and comes to respect Peter more because of it).

    Of course, I never got past the first HP book, so trying to find HP parallels is not really doable for me. It’s not like HP was the first apprentice book…

    • MarFisk says:

      Ah, but your characterization of Nightingale matches mine, I just didn’t talk about EVERYTHING :). He was an indifferent teacher who didn’t drive Peter to learn, in fact discouraged (with good cause) pushing ahead. That didn’t mean he was an indifferent person :).

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