This book is the fourth book in a series. If you've landed here without reading Rivers of London and its two sequels, you'd best go and do that - they're all rattling good reads - before coming back to it. It's not that Broken Homes can't be read alone - there are relatively few plot points here that depend on the earlier books, though there are some - it's more that if you read this first you'll want to read the others, but inevitably you'll then know about stuff that is meant to come as a surprise.
That said, this is another magical adventure in which Aaronovitch's spell-using police trio - Peter, Lesley and Nightingale (which, we now learn, seems to be a title rather than a name) - assisted by Toby the dog and the enigmatic Molly, investigate a series of gruesome deaths. These seem to focus on a south London high rise estate which the local council want to demolish, but which has inexplicably been listed for preservation.
As in the previous books, much of the focus here is on "routine" policing (OK, still policing by Nightingale's special squad, and so, by definition, supernatural, but basic matters: following up leads, cross checking information, generally getting nowhere. That, and crowd-policing the river gods' annual open day...) and the interactions between Nightingale's team and the ordinary police. Some might find that material a bit slow moving, but I rather enjoy watching this, following the chat between the colleagues and guessing which points will be significant and which won't. One of the strengths of the series is that there are continuing and developing mysteries that are never fully explained - Molly's true nature, for example, and the sprawling families of river gods - so that one senses Aaronovitch building up stuff for later books. I think Aaronovitch does this very well, very convincingly - to me his series is the most credible of the various recent takes on "magical London"
Of course the story does pick up pace towards the end with some dramatic action sequences and a pretty drastic conclusion. While pretty exciting (and the conclusion does leave things wide open for the future) I didn't find this section quite as engaging as the first part. I find it interesting that some other reviews say 'it starts slow but improves when it gets moving...' I'm not sure why that is - maybe those sequences are just a little slick? Maybe the real fun in these books is the bickering between Peter, Lesley and assorted supernatural entities (which naturally gets squeezed out by all the action?)
That's why I've rated it 4 stars rather than 5 - which in my view still means it is a very good read; it's an entertaining story and indeed a book I found hard to put down. I'm looking forward to the next.
on 29 August 2013
Satisfying in itself, but also feels like a chapter in a larger work.
The plot, as they say, randomises. Having gone down last time (Whispers Underground), this time Ben reaches up for London's skyline, while developing more of what we might call the story arc begun in Moon Over Soho. We're getting to the stage where we could do with a "previously on..." It's all good stuff, we learn a little more about how Ben's magic world works, get hints of a global dimension and more backstory, but with plenty of time for some satisfying in-jokes for the Bond and Doctor Who fans.
If there's a fault it's that there's not enough of it. The central conceit is genius, but although it starts with multiple mysteries, the way they all dovetail makes the world of Peter Grant seen a bit smaller and less messy than we're used to. Only a brief sojourn with the Rivers and their Spring Court reminds us of the wider world outside this one (hang a lantern on it Bond-villain type) case. And I could have stayed in Skygarden longer just soaking up the atmosphere, with some more red herrings along the way.
Having said that, the ending really ramps up the pace to a gripping climax that will leave you wanting the next volume. I'm looking forward to it already.
on 26 July 2013
Why almost? Because Arranovitch seems to have dropped one ball of the many he is juggling in this book. The first half was disconnected and didn't seem to flow like the previous 3 novels. It wasn't until the second half when we get to briefly see Nightingale in full flow that the pace picks up, the links start to be connected and we get more information.
We meet a new individual who could be help or hindrance, and maybe, just maybe, of interest to one of our characters. And the ending wasn't one i saw coming, though thinking back on it i really should have. But as others have said this didn't fully tie up all the plot lines in this novel as others have done, but left a wide gaping maw of a follow on for the next story.
So why the 4 stars instead of 5? EDITING!!!! Seriously, get a couple of decent proof readers to deal with the continuity errors and all the flipping typos!!!!
Other than that this is still an amazing book as all the Rivers novels are. For me they are up there with the Discworld series and that of the Emporers Edge.
on 7 August 2013
Loved this book, as with the others. I did find the first third of the book a bit disjointed in a couple of places - lots of minor characters brought in really early on, and I lost track of who was who and had to keep flicking back to remember. However, love Grant and Nightingale and the Zach is growing on me too. Great storyline, and boy - didn't see that twist coming. Can't wait for the next instalment.
How to sum up Ben Aaronovitch's books? They're Harry Potter crossed with The Sweeney, with a big dose of Robert Elms' delightful radio show about London thrown in....
Actually it's pretty hard to capture how much fun the Peter Grant series is for a reader. Aaronovitch's books follow the career of magically-talented Constable Peter Grant, giving total reality to a London where magic really happens, but where you may also require the very real firepower of Tactical Support Units. In "Broken Homes", a magically-tainted car crash leads PC Peter Grant to wonder if he is back on the trail of the magical overlord called the 'Faceless Man' who caused such trouble in previous outings. London's ugliest housing estate, in concretey Elephant & Castle, becomes the focus of his investigation, as he begins to wonder why the highrise is attracting quite such a lot of magically-inclined interest....
The detailed imagining of all this is totally delightful: "Broken Homes" weaves in jazz players, goblins, concrete brutalist architects, dog-fighting rings and the spirits of trees and rivers, amongst other things - there's magical hocus pocus at the same time as detailed discussion of Scotland Yard strategic targets: it sounds a strange combination, yet it all somehow seems to gel together, producing a read you will be completely sorry to finish.
The overall tone is light and enjoyable, but there's lots of wonderful sinister set pieces. It's a really perfect bit of holiday reading.
((The only thing I can possibly complain about is something I've moaned about before with these books - the detailed proof-reading. For example, without any plot spoilers, the book begins with a car crash. By page 7, the text mentions a 'dead Volvo driver' but this character is in fact alive and remains so for the rest of the book! As proved by a quick look at the flyleaf! Sorry, but the tiny details do matter in detective fiction and dear author, ANY of your big fans would be happy to read for you in proof, free, and spot this kind of thing! Happily!!))
There's very little worse than being disappointed by a book you've been looking forward to for months but I'm afraid that's how I felt about this latest instalment.
The other books in the Peter Grant series have had a strong individual story at their centre whereas this book felt poorly planned and acted as a continuation of the last book without really adding anything. As it's been a while since I read the third book, I found myself having to go back to remind myself who certain characters were as well as minor plot details. Much of the promise of the first 100 pages is not developed and there are parts of the story which were just left hanging.
Add to this, the distinct lack of Molly (one of my favourite characters) and I was not a happy bunny. There was a nice twist towards the end of the book which has meant that I will come back to see if things pick up again in book five, but I'm really, really disappointed.
It's also worth noting that if you haven't read the other books in the series it is largely pointless buying this one (it'll make virtually no sense!)
on 4 November 2016
Once again this was a little bit of a disappointment for about 50% of it which was a bit rubbish in honesty. The books seem to be steadily getting less and less magic based and more and more police based – sort of like the magic has fizzled out and Peter is just a regular copper now.
This book was basically about a housing estate in Elephant and Castle that somehow was the centre of this massive magical oil rig which was being targeted by The Faceless Man and was eventually blown up. The point of blowing the building up I’m not exactly sure but hey what can you do?
One thing I really liked was the introduction- proper introduction of the Night Witch, Varvara Sidorovna – and her subsequent demise and ultimate “incarceration” with The Nightingale. She kind of had this whole I’m a bad ass thing going for her, which in the grand scheme of things, is a big improvement on the magic front. Even Nightingale did more magic than Peter.
"Philip told me proudly that his mum had ceased to be a practicing Catholic the day after he came out.
‘She says she will go back to the Church the day it apologises,” He said."
I really, really liked the above quote, I’m so sick of seeing people be homophobes because of religion (Disclaimer: I am not religious in any way, shape or form and therefore have no basis to discriminate. Any opinions I do have are entirely my own and are no representation of my blog, my life or my company.) You usually find someone who is either one way or the other – either for or against – and they’re usually squarely on one side of the pitch and have no plans to deviate from that side and it’s nice to see a character take the side of their homos*xual son/daughter; it’s rare and usually poorly written.
There is, despite the unfortunate lack of magic in this book, the same casual humour that marks a Ben Aaronovitch book:
"Never mind all that, says your brain, it’s those silent fur-covered merchants of death you’ve got to watch out for."
"In 1666, following an unfortunate workplace accident, the city of London burnt down."
Humour that really, is so dry it can be used as kindling but it’s just so good and so typically British.
Another I liked – very similar to the previous books however:
‘F... me,’ I said to Toby. ‘We’re living in Isengard.’
My next big issue with this book was Lesley. What the actual f...? That’s all I’m saying because I refuse to give a spoiler for those who haven’t read the book yet and have plans to. Just know that my original feelings for Lesley’s character have now been thoroughly blown to smithereens, ironically a lot like the Skygarden Estate.
My partner was waiting for me to finish the book so he could have a rant with me and we both ranted long and well.
There were a lot of parts to this book I did like but the overwhelming lack of magic has pushed this book and it’s 2 predecessors firmly into the crime with a small sci-fi twist rather than straight sci-fi.
We’ll see where the next two books take this series shall we?
When Rivers of London came out in 2011 it was in my opinion ground breaking, each book in the series has built upon the last in a unique, witty and captivating style (Broken Homes, takes it to a new height). Peter Grant the main protagonist could be a guy you went to school with, well if you forget the fact that he can do magic, and is often as confused about it as you or I. Nightingale (his boss) is the mentor, some would say the Dumbledore, I would say the Doctor Who, the man with the past he doesn't share, the knowledge he drip feeds, and the personality of the irritable professor.
What I love about the series is the total unpredictable nature of the story/ Series, the topsy turvy contrary nature of the River spirits/ Gods and other magical beings. The twists and turns and machinations of the faceless man leave you guessing constantly as to where things will go next, what risks Peter will take next and powers he will try and use. Broken Homes introduces a new form of magic and takes us further into the political/ magical landscape of London and the Rivers. It throws up some serious surprises for the established characters, and delves deeper into the past, with more hints at the geo-political/ Magical landscape of Europe during WW2 and before.
In this series there are always some fantastic side plots, the boy meets girl plot lines, the boy runs from crazy girl, or girl from boy who does magic. Always the story arc and the small incidentals will leave you smiling or laughing out loud.
This truly is the most interesting, uniquely funny series being written. Its a must read, no matter what genre you like.
on 11 August 2013
Broken Homes is the 4th in Ben Aaronovitch's Folly Series, following PC Peter Grant, a young copper who at the beginning of the series, met a ghost and suddenly found himself a member of the Metropolitan Police's magic division.
The novel carries on the storylines from previous books, so I won't delve too far, for there would be spoilers. This time the mystery revolves around a housing estate called Skygarden.
It continues to expand the magical universe it is set in as Peter, Lesley, and Nightingale continue to hunt the Faceless Man, and the Little Crocodile society, it also brings back the always good value Rivers sisters, Fairy Zach, and others we met in the previous novels which is nice.
I also liked how we are given more detail about how Peter is slowly learning and studying his magical craft, necessary in the development of a clumsy apprentice.
There is good characterization of newly introduced surrounding players who pop off the page easily with pithy but greatly visual description.
I really enjoyed this one, having had some issues with both books two and three, I loved a certain passage which made a remark about schizophrenia, applicable to mental illness in general.
I also really loved the twist, which I never saw coming at all.
I knew if I stuck with this story it would pay off if I ignored the bits about the first two sequels I found a bit shaky, and kept up with it. I think Broken Homes is a return to form for this saga, but obviously if you've not read it you do have to start with Rivers Of London.
I'd absolutely love to see this optioned as a TV series, its sense of Britishness would work more on the small screen than the large.
on 31 July 2013
I'm a real fan of these books and have just finished the fourth one - I wanted to make it last for a few days at least. Broken Homes is a real return to form, I liked Whispers Underground but this was even better. The second half of the novel rocked and I really liked the fact that we saw more of Nightingale in action. Now he is becoming more and more interesting ...
The faceless man in on the prowl again and our heroes are working undercover in a tower block in the Elephant and Castle. I love that London is the main character in this story and the little policing details that are dropped in. Aaronovitch has done his research and it shows in the acronyms and details about procedure and equipment. The humour is spot on, there are so many one-liners and little references, which make Peter Grant more and more like able.
I hope the Russian night witch becomes a regular character - she's interesting, and there is so much more to be explored in this world. I don't want to give too much away but there's Nightgale's past, the Folly - a lot to be developed and I hope that this series continues for a good while yet. Oh, and there's quite an ending, which I honestly did not see coming. More Please!