I was searching for a book my brother would like when I stumbled across Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It was described as a British Harry Dresden novel - and yes, I suppose there are vague similarities, in that both of thle main characters are wizards - but honestly, having read both, I think Aaronovitch's book is far, far, better. For one, the British version has an amazing cover (right). It's also well-written and nicely grounded in London's history once you open the flaps. And aside from from having a very cool plot, it fails a hell of a lot less than Harry Dresden in terms of race and gender.
First: the cover, because I really like it. The colours look great. The font is quirky and reminiscent of water. And showing London inked in black words manages to put the focus on the setting and look really cool.
Second: race and gender. The main character, Peter Grant, is mixed-race. This shouldn't even be worth commenting on aside from the fact that I haven't read that many books with protagonists of colour recently. I can think of Hunter from Neverwhere, plus maybe the Japanese-designed sex robot Emiko, the titular character from The Windup Girl (would she count?). I suppose Game of Thrones and other fantasy novels have different cultures and races in them too. But it's rare in speculative fiction, and that's disappointing. Peter's African heritage doesn't over-define him, but it isn't ignored either. Gender-wise, the book doesn't do badly: there are lots of female characters, and they tend to do their own thing. Most are competent, while a few aren't - no complaints there. The only thing that had my eyes rolling a little bit was when Peter's love interest/fellow copper Leslie (of course. Who else?!) needed to be rescued, but I'll have to wait until Book 2 to see if that's a trend. The fact that I can't wait to read Moon Over Soho is promising though!
As for the plot, there are summaries all over the net (for example, at SF Reviews). I'm not going to rehash them here.
What I will say, however, is that Del Ray, Aaronovitch's American publisher, failed where the book didn't. First by changing the name of Book 1 to Midnight Riot, which is a dreadful title that doesn't make any sense. And secondly, and most importantly, by fullly silhouetting the protagonist on the cover of the published book, thereby erasing his race. Maybe they thought white readers would be scared off? Or maybe there were on crack. Either way, it's disgraceful. They've done it for the second book too - you can see the original covers and the darkened out versions below.