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Broken Homes
Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz, 357 pages

Broken Homes
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: 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

'Given that Nightingale was heavy artillery, we didn't want him piling in if this turned out to be common or garden criminality. Come to think of it, I wasn't sure we should be piling in, at least not while kitted up and with The Fuzz written on our foreheads.'
Broken Homes is book four in the adventures of PC Peter Grant, Britain's first trainee wizard in a generation. So, any prospective new readers should stop here to avoid mild spoilers, and seek out book one, Rivers of London. This time around, the story is centred on Skygarden, an architectural experiment in high rise construction, by legendary designer Erik Stromberg. A building later noted for its catalogue of design errors. When information reveals that something untoward and possibly supernatural is occurring in or around Skygarden, PC Grant is tasked with finding out what.

This series has been described as "what if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz," but with each new work it becomes clearer that it's a distant cousin to J.K. Rowling's world. Ben Aaronovitch has both style and content that are far more realistic, and his setting will be familiar to anyone with experience of life in a major British city. In particular the urban sprawl of modern London. As might be expected, the frame of reference is also distinctly English, with many cultural idiosyncrasies to amuse and delight. Broken Homes supporting cast includes established favourites such as PC Lesley May, Dr. Walid, the Faceless Man, and Grant's immediate superior, Nightingale. At long last we get to see just what the experienced older wizard is capable of when pushed. We're also treated to developments concerning Lesley May, and a significant appearance by arch nemesis the Faceless Man. Throughout, the author delivers a story that feels comfy as a pair of old slippers, yet decidedly fresher. Helping to keep the series moving forward is the welcome addition of magical newcomer Varvara Sidorovna, who seems destined to play an ongoing supporting role. Strangely, it is the lead character who seems to make the least progress here, either magically or in terms of character development. Its not that he's boring or overshadowed too much, it's more a case of treading water. For example, his unwillingness to begin a relationship with Beverley Brook, and his less than spectacular progress as a magical practitioner. The author is clearly keen to keep his characters as real as possible, given that they inhabit a London where magic is a fact of life, and this is no bad thing. But sometimes I felt the story could have done with a little less mundanity and a little more of the tension and zap found in later chapters.

All in all, Broken Homes continues a winning formula, and builds well on events which took place in the previous three titles. The one issue that continues to frustrate me as a reader, is that Nightingale is such an enigma, and I always want to know more than is revealed. In the same way that Gandalf and Dumbledore outshine their respective protégés, Nightingale and his mysterious past casts a giant shadow over PC Grant. Perhaps Ben Aaronovitch should write a spin-off retrospective novel?

Copyright © 2013 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

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