Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the highly enjoyable fourth novel of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch, Broken Homes.
“A gripping and shocking fourth novel that keeps the reader glued to the page with oddly interesting trivia, cynical and irreverent humour, and a good number of powerful magical displays, and caps it all off with a fantastic ending that I never saw coming. A must-read for fans of urban fantasy, Peter Grant is fast becoming one of my favourites alongside Harry Dresden and Skulduggery Pleasant.” – The Founding Fields
This is my first review for this series, but I may write up reviews for the others, and I felt that it had to be done after I finished this book, a 300-page hardback fyi, in less than 24 hours. I was fixated on the book from start to finish, dying to know what was going to happen next and where Aaronovitch was going to take us next. By the time I finished it I had laughed quite a bit, nearly unhinged my jaw with a twist that not only did I never see coming but that completely changes the game for Aaronovitch’s characters, and grinned ear to ear over the battle where Aaronovitch finally shows what a real wizard in this series can do. While this book doesn’t quite take the spot of my favourite in the series, that honour goes to book number two or Moon over Soho, it is definitely the runner-up and promises much more exciting things to come fr0m this series and author Ben Aaronovitch.
A body with no face dumped in a field, a weird suicide in a train station, and a stolen book of magic with ties to Nazi Germany. So far it’s pretty normal for everyday London, at least in PC Peter Grant’s case. But could all these things, small as they may be, link to the mysterious Faceless Man, creator of chimerae and “ethically challenged” practitioner?? Grant thinks so, and with strange things happening at the Skygarden and an ancient fairy court meeting for the first time in a century and a half, and demanding that the Folly handle security, Peter Grant has his hands full tracking down old books and meeting old fairy friends, but something strange is happening at the Skygarden and unless Peter can figure out what is is and why, then London may soon face a supernatural threat that not even the Folly can handle. But worst of all, it all just had to happen south of the river.
The story in Broken Homes is admittedly a little disconnected in places, but the main plot was juicy and engaging enough that I read the book in two sittings. Aaronovitch really kept the mystery going right until the end, what Skygarden was and what it was meant for, the motives of the Faceless Man were admittedly not what I expected and some hints about the infamous Ettersburg were revealed but still we sit in the dark on that matter. I really enjoyed the twists and turns that Aaronovitch took, it kept me guessing as to what the antagonist was after and why until the very end and took the characters into some very interesting places and had them meet some interesting people. The only thing I think needed improving was the connection to the early side plots, the things that get the protagonists involved in the first place, they felt unimportant near the end and could have been more relevant to the main story, it would have made things feel a bit tighter in terms of storytelling and made the early parts of the book better by their connection to the later parts.
The characters are a high point of the book, and the series. Aaronovitch is great at making quirky characters, even the passing witnesses and background characters feel like individuals with their own idiosyncracies and quirks which makes me want to know more about them. Some returning characters appear in the novel, including one I didn’t think we’d see again, and some new characters appear, one of which I dearly hope we see again, and both of those along with the protagonists and returning antagonist make this book both fun for being new and for revisiting older elements of the series that fans of the series since the start will appreciate. Some very interesting character development occurs in the book for Peter and Lesley, and some more hints at Nightingale’s past which I really want to know more about, and of course the I loved the return of the Faceless Man who is my favourite character of the series. On the whole I think Broken Homes has put the returning characters through quite a bit of character development while introducing a few new characters that I think we’ll see again, both of which will only make book five more of a must-read for me.
The action is a step-up from the rest of the series, because we finally get to see Nightingale in battle. Not in great detail but enough to show some of what he is capable of, and what Peter could one day become. And it was damn impressive, one of my favourite scenes to be sure,. Aaronovitch really went the whole mile with that fight, since magic being understated has been used in all of the books it was quite gratifying to finally see a full scale magical battle and to find out what magic is capable of beyond producing werelights and forcefields, and one of the new characters introduced a style of magic that I hope Peter finds a way to learn in the future, it was pretty awesome. The other few fights were really the norm for the series, with Peter’s police training taking precedence over the magic aspects which isn’t a bad thing but I do think we need to see Peter in a real magic duel soon. Hopefully by book five he will have learned some combat magic.
The pacing of the book was quite well done, Aaronovitch starts off slow and pulls in the reader by introducing the mysteries in the book quite early, and then keeps the reader going to the next page by either advancing one of the plot strands, introducing another or by closing another and some of those close in ways that had me going on just to find out what the hell happened next. The London and architectural trivia continues, which i’ve come to find somewhat interesting though I do think that if it were done anymore than it is it would become too much. The humour of course is still funny and one or twice I burst out laughing at a joke or even just the ignorance of some of the characters of certain aspects of life. Only two things about the book niggled at me, first I counted two instances where Aaronovitch mixed up characters names which made those scenes a little confusing until I realised the mistake, I think he should get a proof-reader for that or find a more thorough one. And second one little event in the book was never mentioned again even at the end, and I really wanted to know what that character was up to. Hopefully we’ll find out in book five but I think it should have gotten a mention, or just some hints at it at least.
My favourite quote, tough choice but I’d have to go with this one by the character I do hope we see again,
“If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go into the woods.”
The ending was a hell of a twist, I never saw this coming and credit to Aaronovitch for that. His explanation of certain things does clear up exactly how it happened but even with hindsight those clues were subtle as hell, I could never have guessed at the true meaning behind certain things in the book and thus that leads to the twist ending that has completely changed the game between the Folly and the Faceless Man. Not only does this ending really cap off a great book but it also means that book five has the material to be the best book in the series, I can’t even guess where things will begin to go from this point on and what characters may fill the void that has been left, it’s definitely rich speculation material and I think Aaronovitch outdid himself with this twist. It has me dying to read book five and when you are dying to read the next book in the series, that is a clear sign that the author has done a great job. I also enjoyed the final few lines of the novel that show how hard the twist has hit the characters, and that things are going to get a lot more complicated from here on out.
For a great and deeply enjoyable story, a strong cast of characters in which I cannot find a single boring character, an much-needed increase in the scale of the magic use in the series and an ending that i’m still in shock over as I write this review I give Broken Homes a score of 8.7/10. Any fan of urban fantasy should make reading the Peter Grant series one of their priorities, I am sincere in my belief that in time this series will become as popular as the Dresden Files especially if Aaronovitch continues to put out books of this quality, and fans of the series will definitely enj0y this continuance, it has everything that made the other books great and more added on. However if you aren’t a fan of urban fantasy and prefer more traditional fantasy and magic, then this isn’t the book or series for you.
That’s it for this review. I think my next review will be for the novel Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost and it’s sequels, but something else may pop up that demands my attention, I can’t be sure. So until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!