London-based Spec Fic Tales – Part 1


I have the great good fortune to live within easy travelling distance of London. Its landmarks are famous around the world and while it is every bit as vibrantly modern as other capital cities, it also reeks of history with odd corners where you can close your eyes and almost hear Londoners from another age, as they go about their daily lives.

It is a fabulous backdrop for science fiction and fantasy tales – J.K. Rowling’s use of King’s Cross Station is just one of a long line of authors setting their stories in a familiar and much-loved public arena. Of course, not every setting then acknowledges that mention by putting up a sign for tourists pointing out where Platform 93/4 is positioned. Below, I have listed some of my favourite science fiction and fantasy reads that are set in London, drawing on the unique vibe of the place…

Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army forriversoflondon justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated.

This introduces the first book in this delightful series where London’s rich backdrop is used very effectively as an appropriate setting for Grant’s fantastic adventures. The first book, Rivers of London, starts the series – see my review here.



The Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
fatedAlex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success…

This excellent series, which starts with Fated – see my review here – is set in a grim world where mages predate on each other with some really scary skills, goes on getting better with each book. It’s currently one of my favourites.




The Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell
Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence londonfallinganalyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal. Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out.

Now, the team must find a suspect who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again. As the group starts to see London’s sinister magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game – and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.

This is a dark fantasy offering, full of angst and tricky magic – the first book in the series is London Falling – see my review here.


The Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin
amadnessTwo years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home. Except that it’s no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable…despite his body never being found. He doesn’t have long to mull over his resurrection though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.
This is an amazing series – I love Griffin’s writing and the extraordinary start to this great adventure is A Madness of Angels, see my review here.




The Magicals Anonymous series by Kate Griffin
This is spin-off series is set in the same world as the Matthew Swift books. I love this one – and my straysoulsabiding regret is that there are only two books in this series. I’m hoping that Griffin might want to take a break from writing as Claire North and revisit Sharon and her self help group.

London’s soul has gone missing. Lost? Kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows – but when Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she is immediately called upon to use her newfound powers of oneness with the City to rescue it from a slow but inevitable demise.
The problem is, while everyone expects Sharon to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start. But with London’s soul missing and the Gate open, there are creatures loose that won’t wait for her to catch up before they go hunting.

The first book is Stray Souls – and the special extra with this series is the laugh-aloud humour, see my review here.


The Onyx Court series by Marie Brennan
midnightnevercomeEngland flourishes under the hand of its Virgin Queen: Elizabeth, Gloriana, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow. In hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court: Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, and a dark mirror to the glory above. In the thirty years since Elizabeth ascended her throne, fae and mortal politics have become inextricably entwined, in secret alliances and ruthless betrayals whose existence is suspected only by a few.

As you can see from the blurb, this is a historical paranormal series – the first book is called Midnight Never Come, see my review here.




The Age of Aztec – Book 4 of the Pantheon series by James Lovegrove
This is the only book in this intriguing godpunk series that is set in London – and for my money, is my ageofaztecfavourite so far. I thoroughly enjoy Lovegrove’s smooth writing and this is one of my favourite books of 2012.

The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House – November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning – and the Aztec Empire rules the world. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador. He is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth about the Aztec and thier gods, but a Detective, Mal Vaughan, has been put on his trail and the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice. See my review here.


This is the first selection of my favourite London-based speculative fiction – have you read any of the books in these series? What did you think of them?

19 responses »

  1. J.K. Rowling’s use of King’s Cross Station

    Ha! I’d always (from the movies) assumed it was Paddington — I guess because, having lived for ~25 years in Devon and having to travel frequently from there to London, Paddington was the obvious.

    For me, there are so many London-based fantasies that it’s hard to think of which might be the best.

    • I highly recommend Ben Aaronovitch, Ben Jacka and Kate Griffin – while there are some variations quality-wise, the overall standard of the series are excellent. And my favourite? Kate Griffin’s Magicals Anonymous series is just so funny, yet epic. An unusual mix…

  2. And there all the pieces fall into place. That is why you write so lovely! You are real and proper ENGLISH!! I’ve never been to London, desperately still want to go. My husband was there earlier this year on business and I sulked for a weeks. At least he brought back a stunning notebook with vintage English landmarks on. I record every single book that I read (you can read about that on Now I can record some of these listed titles in that book! I’ve never heard of any of these, but I’m not really into fantasy, BUT – BUT – you might change my mind….. I’ve listed three of these TBR. You should also include A Darker Shade of Magic on this list, I’ve only read the first one in the series so far, but I loved it. Great post!

    • Thank you, Mareli:)). If you like police procedural whodunits, the Rivers of London series is porbably the best starting place – it is also the series which features London itself quite a lot… And I’m making a note of A Darker Shade of Magic:)). AND let’s hear it for the left-handers of the world – mighty, awesome individuals that we are – YAYYYYY!

  3. These books are all new to me, though I’ve heard of two of the authors (Ben Aaronovitch, Marie Brennan). Have you heard of V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic? It’s a fantasy series with parallel worlds and different versions of London. I haven’t read it yet, but I’d like to at some point.

    I’m trying to remember London-based speculative fiction I’ve read recently, but can’t remember any… Hmmmmmm.

    • No! Though someone else has just recommended them to me, and I KEEP threatening to get hold of Schwab’s books. Thank you for swinging by, Sara:) They are all good reads, though the Ben Aaronovitch, Kate Griffin and Benedict Jacka are highly recommended.

  4. I really like when authors set their stories outside of US – especially when they actually live (or lived) in the city they use as setting (recently I’ve read a series set in Dublin and it pained me as the author was American and pretty much failed to convey Dublin’s atmosphere, making it an americanized version). I haven’t read any of the books above (though I’ve heard good things about Aaronovitch). The ones set in London I’ve read are only Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” (like you, I like some of his works, while I can’t really stand some others) and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books.

    • Aaronovitch has a nice line in snarky humour and his protagonist Peter Grant is very interesting, given he is something of an outsider – and I’m a huge fan of Kate Griffin’s writing. I think you’d like it, too… Jacka’s been very clever with Alex Verus and his ability to see short distances into the future – I’ve never seen such a gift so intelligently handled before or since.

      • Thank you for your recommendations. I like snarky humour, so it definitely should go on my TBR list. (I wish someone had paid me for reading my TBR books so that I could catch up with the list!)

  5. One of the reasons I love books with foreign (to me) settings, is that you often get narrators with great accents. I will have to check these out and see if that’s the case with them.

  6. Pingback: The Sunday Post - 31 July 2016 - Elza Reads

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