Literature: Rivers of London
aka: Whispers Under Ground
"A police whistle on Bow Street. For a moment I felt a connection, ... with the night, the streets, the whistle and the smell of blood and my own fear, with all the other uniforms of London down the ages..."Rivers of London
is a series of books which follow the career of Peter Grant, Police Constable and apprentice wizard, as he tackles supernatural crime in London along with his superior officer, and Master Wizard, Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale. Written by former Doctor Who
writer Ben Aaronovitch, the series comprises five books so far. Aaronovitch has been commissioned to write a further three.The books are:
- Rivers of London, or Midnight Riot in the US
- Moon Over Soho
- Whispers Under Ground
- Broken Homes
- Foxglove Summer
- The Hanging Tree (Provisional title: Summer 2015)
- "Home Crowd Advantage"
- "The Domestic"
- "The Cockpit"
Co-written with Andrew Cartmel.
With its realistic London setting, it's a good example of Urban Fantasy
where the Masquerade
is maintained by a combination of stealth and public indifference.
There is a website where you can read about the background of the novel, including a Character Blog
In June 2013 the series was optioned for television, and in January 2014 it was announced that Titan Comics had picked up the licence for a graphic novel adaptation (first instalment to be called Body Work
and due April 2015).
There is also an official Rivers of London Rap
by Doc Brown and Mikis Michaelides.
The books contain examples of:
open/close all folders
Tropes A to K
Tropes L to P
Tropes Q to Z
- Railroad Tracks of Doom: The ghost of a teen who got hit while tagging the inside of a rail tunnel appears briefly in Whispers.
- Readers Are Genuises: The books are best read with an A-to-Z of London to one side, and a copy of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable to the other. There is a lot of detail and you will need to keep up.
- Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Thomas "Tiger Tank" Nightingale once took down two of the aforementioned vehicles during the second World War. Considering that Peter has trouble aiming properly at paper targets, and can at most burn through a door, the tank thing is pretty damned impressive, and Peter makes sure that the reader knows it.
- Rich Bitch: Tyburn.
- Rooftop Confrontation: The climax of Soho and the climax of Broken Homes.
- Running Gag: People whom Nightingale or Peter are telling about the supernatural for the first time promptly ask if aliens are real, too. (When Peter himself asks his new boss this, Nightingale says: "Not yet".)
- Sarcastic Confession: In book three Lesley sarcastically says to create a distraction for Peter to snoop around she'll take her mask off. When Peter catches a glimpse while snooping, she actually has.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Peter is generally a quiet, thoughtful type who takes a scientific approach to magic and a community-based approach to police work. Lesley is much more gung-ho.
- Scars Are Forever:
- Lesley's horrific injuries at the end of Rivers do not get any better in Soho. As of book 3, she's getting better at letting people see her without her mask, but things have not improved much. Nightingale is still suffering from his wounds too, keeping him firmly in the background and as support.
- Oberon - despite being some sort of Fae - still bears the scars from his days as a slave a few hundred years ago.
- In book four, Lesley is revealed to have become The Mole for the Faceless Man, and it's implied that she expects him to subvert this trope and restore her face.
- Scenery Porn: Aaronovitch's prose is detailed enough to make this a literary example. Peter trained as an architect (but his draughtsmanship was too poor to cut it) thus why Peter tends to go on about buildings so much.
- Shooting Gallery: The Folly has one for trainee wizards to practice their fireball skills in. As a mark of just how long it has been since it was put to use, all the target silhouettes are still shaped like WW 2 Nazis.
- Shown Their Work: And how!
- Sinister Surveillance: Averted when Peter points out (Truth in Television) that the supposedly ubiquitous "surveillance cameras" are simply all the security cameras there are, and not linked to some Big Brother network.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Waaaaay down the cynical side.
- Spell My Name with a "The": Much of the magical community does this with Nightingale, always referring to him as "The Nightingale". As of book five, some have taken to calling Peter himself "the starling", albeit without (yet) the prestige of a capital letter.
- Spot of Tea: In book three Peter's refusal of tea when he meets The Quiet Folk sparks widespread muttering and consternation.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: FBI agent Kimberly Reynolds dyes her hair a plain brown to avert this trope, as nobody took her seriously as a good-looking redhead.
- Social Engineering: Peter's training has equipped him with loads of little tricks used by Real Life police officers, such as asking an unidentified person in a car for their driver's license: if you ask their name they might lie and have a right not to answer, but if they think it's a traffic issue they'll hand their card over without complaint.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Used a lot, and probably inevitable in a series that combines streetwise cop-jargon with Latin-based thaumaturgical terminology in the same dialogue.
- The Starscream: Tyburn is implied to be one of these to Mama Thames in Rivers and in Soho Nightingale confirms her status, and implies that when the inevitable clash between the two comes that it might be a good time to take a holiday on another continent.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Peter almost never narrates his own emotions, only his logical thinking and actions, and it's implied throughout the series (and spelled outright in Foxglove Summer) that this narrative choice represents how he (In-Universe) represses or omits a lot of his emotional response.
- Nightingale shows his own, more classical, take on this trope from Peter's POV.
- Strawman Fallacy: In Soho when confronted with the issue of Inhumanable Alien Rights, Nightingale tries to make Peter concede that he is only arguing for rights for non-humans because the perps are attractive. Peter spots the strawman there, and says that he might not have thought to argue if they were grotesque but that just makes him "shallow, not wrong".
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Molly is explicitly described as looking like one when Peter first sees her.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Started by Newton, and Peter adds his own contributions to this when he works out why Magic and Electronic Technology are incompatible. Foxglove Summer reveals that David Mellenby had found a way to close the gap between Newtonian magic and quantum theory.
- Practically lampshaded in a summary of various eras' prevailing theories about ghosts, as each one (Peter's own included) very closely mimics whatever the cutting-edge scientific paradigm of its day happened to be.
- Suicide by Cop: The antagonist in "Home Crowd Advantage" turns out to be trying to provoke Nightingale into a Wizard Duel so he can commit the magical equivalent of suicide by cop.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: In Broken Homes, Peter is practicing his formae and speculates that it might be possible to create one with the shape of the body, rather than using words to form a shape in your mind, and maybe that's where the idea of martial artists flying and throwing energy bolts comes from.
- Supernatural Sensitivity: A magician can sense magic as a flash of sensations. The Rivers are able to literally smell when someone is a magician, even if the magician in question isn't using magic at the time. Toby the dog is also able to sense magic. The Night Witch in the fourth book says that the Germans had units of men - called werewolves - able to "sniff out" magicians. These men may or may not have been actual lycanthropes.
- Tactful Translation: Madame Teng's translator in book 3 engages in a bit of this when Teng delivers a tirade about the position of Mainland China vis-a-vis Taiwan. He basically just says that its important to her that Peter knows she dislikes modern mainland China and, while Peter doesn't need to know the exact translation, can he just look interested please.
- Team Pet: Toby the Dog.
- Technologically Blind Elders: Nightingale knows little to nothing about the modern, computerized systems used by the police.
- There Was a Door: Played with by Nightingale in book four, when he blows a huge hole in the front of a building, only to slip in the back door while his opponent is taking aim at the resulting dust-cloud.
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: While not exactly, filled with the standard Tomes of Eldritch Lore, the Black Library contains the Nazi's documentation of their human - and fae - experimentation and their attempts at using David Mellenby's theories to unite magic with quantum theory. Mellenby and other British magicians killed themselves after surviving the battle of Ettersberg and the subsequent retreat back to the Allied front line.
- This Is Reality:
"So magic is real," I said. "Which makes you a... what?"
"Like Harry Potter?"
Nightingale sighed. "No," he said. "Not like Harry Potter."
"In what way?"
"I'm not a fictional character," said Nightingale.
- Unbelievable Source Plot: Rivers of London starts with Police Constable Peter Grant interviewing a witness to a murder, who happens to be a ghost. This testimony, however, will hardly stand in a courtroom, and Grant has to use it as a springboard to find evidence that will. Similar problems with magical evidence come up elsewhere in the series, but don't drive as much of the plot.
- Unicorn: Perhaps in deference to their origin, the unicorns in Foxglove Summer are ferocious. They're also carnivorous, as large as draft horses, and serve the Faerie Queen.
- The Unmasqued World: Hinted at - it hasn't happened yet, but by the end of the third book, magic is crawling out of the woodwork at an accelerating pace and Peter Grant has reluctantly come to agree with Lady Tyburn that the Masquerade can't last much longer. (It's not so much the conclusion itself that he's reluctant about, he just hates the idea of Lady Ty being right about anything.)
- Unusually Uninteresting Name: The Folly is officially merely a part of The Economic and Specialist Crime Team.
- Urban Fantasy: It's about a 21st century cop who uses magic.
- Useless Security Camera:
- In Rivers, the first murder is caught on CCTV, but a key event in the lead-up to it, vital to figuring out who did it and why, occurs just outside the camera's field of view.
- Justified in cases when magic fries monitoring devices.
- The fact that London's ubiquitous cameras didn't record the victim's arrival at the site of his death becomes an early clue that there are hidden passages beneath the city in Whispers.
- Useless Useful Spell: Peter comes up with one of his own by combining aer (gives you "grip" on otherwise thin air) and congelato (causes liquids and gases to solidify). Both spells are fairly useless separate, but together make a handy instant Deflector Shield.
- Vagina Dentata: Possessed by the Pale Lady, whose first victim is found at the end of book one, and who plays a signficant part in book two.
- Villainy-Free Villain: Tyburn. She's a Rich Bitch Jerk Ass who really takes far too much pleasure one-upping Peter and while she might be a bit of a Starscream to her mother, her real intentions are to modernise how London (and the rest of the UK) deals with magic, get everything systematised and above board, and do away with the tangles of "arrangements" and "agreements" that have accumulated over the years. Something that Peter himself is pretty keen on, she just goes about it all in a really arsehole-ish ways.
- The Voiceless: Molly.
- Vomiting Cop: Subverted in-Verse in book four, when Peter hurriedly steps away from a shotgun-blasted corpse with his hand over his mouth. The other police assume it's this trope, but he's actually suppressing giggles because the body's condition tempted him to make a tasteless crack about zombies.
- Wasn't That Fun?: The youngest child of the German tourist family wants to get washed out of the burning store by Beverly's called-up waters again.
- Watch the Paint Job: That detailed description of how cool Beverly's new car is? You knew it would end up in this trope. Rioters 1: Car 0.
- Weasel Co-Worker: Investigations have to be paid for. Which means that police try to dump them on other departments.
- What an Idiot: An In-Universe example when Dr Walid cooks up the fast acting sedative he also gives Peter a card for paramedics to read in case he stabs himself:
"Warning: I have been stupid enough to stab myself with etorphine hydrochloride."
- Wizarding School: Casterbrook - the school where Nightingale learned magic - used to be one of these. After WWII there just weren't enough people left for it to be useful though.
- Wizards Live Longer: Nightingale certainly does, but he seems to be something of an exception.
- Wham Line: The very last line of Soho. "Fuck me, you can do magic."
- Also a Call Back, as that's almost exactly what Peter said when he cast his first werelight, too.
- Whole Plot Reference: The first book, of Punch And Judy. It's both deliberately invoked and extremely plot-relevant.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: Given by Peter to Tyburn in response to her "Reason You Suck" Speech, utterly owning her in front of her entire family including Mama Thames herself.
- The X of Y: Book one, in the UK at least, Rivers of London.
- Yellow Peril: One of Nightingale's predecessors at the Folly led the bust of a reputed Chinese sorcerer and white slaver in 1911. A subversion, as it turned out the sorcerer was a Canadian white guy operating under a Chinese name.
- You Do NOT Want To Know: Whatever it was Nightingale found in that room during Soho, Peter decides he really doesn't. All we know is that the people who exhume mass graves in Rwanda and Kosovo need to be called to process it and some of what they find is not dead (yet).
- Your Head Asplode: Happens to one of the Hare Krishnas.