Review: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch



Broken Homes

Book Four of the Rivers of London / Peter Grant Series

by Ben Aaronovitch

Urban Fantasy | 357 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2013


| Rating |


Broken Homes continues the story of Peter Grant which began with Rivers of London/Midnight Riot and continued with Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground.

Finally! After a several-year-interlude, I got around to reading the fourth book in Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent urban fantasy series, Rivers of London. Set on the dark and dangerous streets of London, Broken Homes is an exciting and addictive tale, where the schemes and plots of rogue magicians and a faceless enemy endeavour to make life difficult for Police Constable Peter Grant. With a backdrop of brutalist architecture, grimy streets and urban sprawl, Broken Homes is a fun and refreshing read, and an excellent addition to the series. And, having read the first three books in this series whilst on a university field trip to London where I visited a brutalist architecture exhibition, this entire book was clearly meant to be!

A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection? And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River.

As usual, Ben Aaronovitch manages to plot a very witty and highly gritty tale of magical misadventure vs. the strong arm of the law. London is brilliantly illuminated and Aaronovitch manages to capture the magical and whimsical side of urban fantasy whilst throwing you head first into a dark and unsettling tale of rogue practitioners, mischievous fae and The Faceless Man. Broken Homes is a tale of strange magics and even stranger characters where trust is hard to come by and loyalties are too often tested.  This book, in all its urban glory, is easily devoured, thoroughly enjoyable and incredibly hard to put down.

London is described in effortless detail and the premise of the story is so rooted in our own past and present (minus the hocus pocus… perhaps) that you could almost believe it was real. The narrative is fast-paced and humorous, the dialogue snappy and to the point and Aaronovitch writes an incredible action scene – I can almost see the walls cracking, glass shattering, bricks crumbling and dust choking the air. The narrative also manages to  convey the social and environmental impact that numerous brutalist architectural schemes have had on the urban environment with attention to detail and a good dose of  magic and humour.

Peter Grant is a fantastic protagonist whose narrative gives an excellent portrayal of his character, and Nightingale’s role as resident antique and gentlemanly badass provides a perfect and often hilarious contrast. These are characters who always keep me reading, and always leave me wanting more. Plot might be the driving force behind these novels but the other characters, both magical and mundane, are captured with that ready wit and with the brief descriptions required to provide an accurate snapshot for a fast-paced and fantastical tale.

Ben Aaronovitch is an author who can weave the fantastic through a very human world and, though the subject matter was right up my alley, I would recommend his books to all those who love their urban fantasy gritty and real, yet fast-paced and funny. Broken Homes is an inventive and fun read which leaves you on a cliff edge for the next novel… now I just need to get my hands on Foxglove Summer!


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Review: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter



Alice in Zombieland

Book One of The White Rabbit Chronicles

by Gena Showalter

Young Adult | Fantasy | 404 Pages | Published by MIRA Ink in 2012


| Rating |


An Alice in Wonderland retelling you say? With zombies? What’s not to like?! Well, quite a lot actually. But this will probably cure me of my habit of judging a book by its cover… and title… and tagline. Whilst this isn’t a terrible novel – I am sure there are people out there who would love it – it really wasn’t a book for me. The first half of this novel left me angry that I’d even bought it in the first place but, once I had forgotten how irritating I found the narrative style, the other half was actually quite fun.

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever. 

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. But that’s all it takes. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone. 

Her father was right. The monsters are real. 

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies.

First and foremost, Alice in Zombieland is not a retelling. Beyond the protagonist being called Alice and her brief glimpses of a rabbit shaped cloud, it has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland at all. No Mad Hatters, no tea parties, and not one person’s head is offed! But enough about that. This is a tale about a young girl who has lost everything. Her family, her innocence and her world come crashing down around her when her father’s apparent delusions become terrifyingly real. Alice must decide whether to live a life on the run in constant paranoia, or to stand and fight.

Alice in Zombieland takes an interesting spin around our general concept of ‘the zombie’. In this novel zombies are spiritual beings who attack and feed off the human spirit. There are people who can see such creatures, who can fight them with their own spirit form – Alice’s father was one – and after tragedy strikes, Alice is thrown headfirst into the same crazy and dangerous world. Whilst the premise of spiritual and ghostly zombies is an interesting one, the scare factor could have done with being turned up a notch. This perhaps has more to do with descriptive style though than the plot, which was at its strongest during these scenes.

The story is told through Alice, or Ali, a sixteen year old girl whose apparent intelligence is undermined by her vacuous narrative. The narrative, for the most part, is vapid and irritating, the text talk is infuriating and I am physically repulsed by the word ‘smexy’. Shudders. This novel, which can only be likened to a teenager’s diary, should have an appeal to certain readerships – those who like romance novels, fans of this YA style and other teenage girls – but for me it felt insincere and lacking the depth that makes first person narration work well.

And of course! This novel has a less than sensible dose of adolescent romance. Cue the instalove, the dark, dangerous and brooding guys (who can only be tamed by one woman) and an endless stream of verbal diarrhoea extolling their virtues. Romance is not and never will be my thing. And if you’re going to have visions of the future, I can imagine a thousand things more useful than a continuous loop of two sixteen year olds getting off with one another. But hey, what do I know.

When the action kicks in however, perhaps half or two thirds of the way through, there is a marked improvement in the narrative style. The plot develops an intriguing element as the opposing ‘hazmat’ side come into play and starts to build up an over-arcing storyline which will presumably play out in the next novels. Though it could have used some more tension and more of a scare factor – that’s more description of the zombies and fight scenes rather than what’s under Cole Holland’s shirt – once the story gets into its flow (and out of the high school) it actually becomes quite enjoyable.

Alice may not be one of my favourite protagonists but she does have her moments. When taking a backstep from the romance, the emotional qualities of her character are much starker, more painful and more real. The love she has for her family, the sorrow of her loss, and the pain and guilt over her last words to them are woven throughout the story and add a little of that much needed depth to her tale. On the other hand, the hoard of other characters felt a little generic. I didn’t particularly like or dislike any of them, in fact, with the exception of Alice’s grandparents, none of them made me feel much of anything at all. Except irritation.

Alice in Zombieland is a novel which, if I had known what it was like, I probably wouldn’t have read. The zombie plot was captivating enough to keep me going to the bitter end but it wasn’t enough to make up for the hours I spent reading it. There will be readers who find Alice quirky rather than vacuous, who will love the romantic storyline and swoon at Cole Holland’s supple sixteen-your-old man-child chest. Just not me. And the worst thing of all – I already own Alice Through the Zombieglass.

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Teaser Tuesdays: October 13


Teaser TuesdaysWelcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Expect a new teaser every week!


| Teaser Tuesdays: NOS4R2 by Joe Hill |

NOS4R2


“The road to Christmasland removes all sorrows, eases all pain and erases all scars. It takes away all the parts of you that weren’t doing you any good, and what it leaves behind is made clean and pure.”

~ p. 504, NOS4R2 by Joe Hill


| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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