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Foxglove Summer
Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz, 384 pages

Foxglove Summer
Ben Aaronovitch
Ben Aaronovitch was born in 1964. Discovering in his early twenties that he had precisely one talent, he took up screenwriting at which he was an overnight success. He wrote for Doctor Who, Casualty and Jupiter Moon. He then wrote for Virgin's New Adventures until they pulped all his books. While working for Waterstones as a bookseller, he decided to write his own books leading to Rivers of London (or Midnight Riot as it is known in the Americas). Ben Aaronovitch currently resides in London.

Ben Aaronovitch Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Broken Homes
SF Site Review: Whispers Under Ground
SF Site Review: Moon Over Soho
SF Site Review: Rivers of London
SF Site Review: Rivers of London

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'I wanted to ask Nightingale about Ettersberg and what, precisely, was behind the black door in the basement of the Folly but I bottled out and asked him to check the literature on unicorns and brownies.'
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Foxglove Summer is the fifth novel in the author's Peter Grant sequence. Grant, for the uninitiated, is a trainee wizard, and police constable in a special unit consisting of two full time staff. This time around Grant is out of London. Seconded to help with an investigation into the mysterious, and possibly magical disappearance of two young girls, Grant tests his magical and mundane skills in the countryside. All the action takes place in and around a rural village policed by the West Mercia force, and containing the usual suspects. Nothing to see here, move along. The trademark rambling plot includes an old favourite in a more proactive role, a pair of enticing newcomers, and a generous scattering of mixed magical beings. But, is this a Dynamo-like masterpiece of intrigue and imagination, or more like Paul Daniels favourite catch-phrase -- Not a lot?

When a popular series gets to book number five, it's often running out of steam. Foxglove Summer, is more like something en-route to somewhere else. At long last, faithful readers of the series get to find out, via an eye-witness, the basics of what really happened at Ettersberg, and are given enough info to guess what's behind the black door in the Folly. There's also significant and quite tasteful progress concerning PC Grant's "will they -- won't they" relationship with minor river goddess Beverley Brook. But readers hoping for more involvement from Nightingale, or Grant's old oppo Lesley May, will be disappointed to learn the two only feature peripherally, and even then it's by phone. On the plus side there's a really interesting new character in the form of a retired wizard named Hugh Oswald. With him comes Melissa, a potentially good new character, introduced first as his granddaughter, then described as his daughter, before flipping back and forth a couple more times. I presumed this was poor proof-reading and not some fantastically subtle plot device. We also get a late look at something which literally opens up whole new vistas for Grant and company, although this is so close to the end it feels like arriving the edge of a precipice.

For hundreds and hundreds of pages, author Ben Aaronovitch has teased great things, and given tantalising glimpses of what might be, yet ultimately delivered stories that meander more than Beverly Brook on tequila. The problem is that as a main character Peter Grant is lacking charisma. He comes across as a decent fellow who does the right thing, an honest copper, and someone who can manage a few witticisms. But, he's simply left standing whenever one of the author's better supporting cast are in the scene. Hugh Oswald, Lesley May, the Faceless Man, Beverly Brook, and especially Nightingale, are all far more interesting, yet remain underused to such a degree it's almost a criminal offence. Ultimately, this book and much of the series is like reading a Batman comic featuring only Robin. A well written Robin, for sure, but not the main man. I can only hope that Ben Aaronovitch speaks true, when in the afterword he tells his readers 'I promise to do better next time.'

Copyright © 2015 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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