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Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
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Book Name: Foxglove Summer
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Publisher(s): Gollancz (UK) DAW (US)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Release Date: November 13, 2014 (UK) January 6, 2015 (US)

Foxglove Summer is the fifth book in the Peter Grant series, which started with Rivers of London. Whilst not a complete departure from previous books, Foxglove Summer does take a slight break from the usual formula to keep the series fresh and engaging.

The Peter Grant series follows the aforementioned character after he discovers an aptitude for magic and is assigned to the Case Progression Unit of London’s Metropolitan Police Force which deals with the supernatural. He’s placed under the tutelage of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale and working out of the Folly has battled magical foes across London over a number of books. It’s witty police procedural meets urban fantasy.

The story has been building over the course of the series and there was a real twist at the end of the last book, Broken Homes. Readers were left with a lot of questions but Foxglove Summer doesn’t play it safe and try to answer them…just yet.

Foxglove Summer changes the pace a little and in doing so shows that the series isn’t afraid to change things up to ensure in doesn’t become formulaic. In this book Peter is sent up to Rushpool, Herefordshire to assist in the search for a couple of missing girls and in doing so encounters fae, unicorns, hedge wizards and the media.

One of the delights of the Peter Grant series are the locations. Aaronovitch manages to takes real world locations and instil history into them on the page without it ever feeling like an infodump. It brings Grant’s London to life in such a way that I’ve read many of the books with Google Maps open in the background. Transferring the action of this book outside of London was always therefore going to be a risk. The books have had scenes set outside the capital before but until now we’ve never had an entire book. Any worries I had about the rural location and whether the book would still maintain the same charm were quickly answered. It seems Aaronovitch can bring the same tone whether he be talking about a building in London or an ancient wood.

Regular readers wanting progression of the story that happened at the end of Broken Homes will be forced to wait. This does feel very much like a “time out” or “calm before the storm” book in the series. Whilst Leslie does put in an appearance of sorts, she’s very much a secondary storyline. Even characters like Nightingale and Molly don’t put in an appearance. The only secondary character that we actually get to see is Beverley Brook. There are nuggets of information to be mined though. Peter’s interaction with Hugh Oswald gives us some background on Molly and Nightingale.

One of the things I was particularly pleased about was how this book tackled diversity. A lot of books make the mistake of making a point of addressing a character’s skin colour if they are not white. Here it’s reversed, with every white character Peter encounters upon arriving in Herefordshire described as “white”. It works in the context of Peter feeling a bit isolated and it gave me a taste of just how annoying books that do the opposite must be.

The second piece I found impressive was the character of Dominic. Here we have a gay character who is introduced without as much as brief surprise when their sexuality is revealed. There’s no offhand remarks, they do not face any adversity because of their sexuality, it’s just stated as a matter-of-fact and we carry on without it ever being ignored or brushed under the carpet. I found that very refreshing.

The book does have its faults though and they seem to be tied up with the end. It builds into what could be a big climatic ending and then…it all seems to fizzle out within a couple of pages, as if the author needed to get it all tied up in a few thousand words. Things like this have been enough to ruin books for me, and it’s a testament as to how much I enjoyed this book that it doesn’t.

If you’ve not read the previous books, it’s probably best to start with Rivers of London and work your way forward. Whilst it is a self-contained story, it would be a bit like starting half way through the Dresden Files. For regular readers, I suspect we’ll look back at this book further down the series and see plot seeds being laid down that we didn’t see at the time. After the climatic shock ending of Broken Homes this does very much feel like a very enjoyable pause in the action. There’s enough different about this book to love it, but books down the line we might refer back to Foxglove Summer as ‘the palette cleanser’. Roll on book six!

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Rating: 9.9/10 (8 votes cast)
Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, 9.9 out of 10 based on 8 ratings
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2 Comments

  1. Lady Ty says:

    Hi Adrian, really enjoyed your review of one of my favourite urban fantasy series. Your description of Foxglove Summer as a ‘palette cleanser’ is perfect and it seemed to me to be just what the series needed at this stage. Personally a little bit tired of Leslie and really appreciated the expansion of the character and skills of Beverley and introduction of several new characters for the future. Also a welcome change to get out of London for a while, good hints about Molly and certainly, as you said, several interesting ‘seeds’ to be watched for in the future. Thank you for giving this great series more prominence on Fantasy Faction.

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