Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire, police constable and wizard-in-training Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved.

It’s purely routine—Nightingale, Peter’s superior, thinks he’ll be done in less than a day. But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police, who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realize that dark secrets underlie the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon Peter’s in a vicious race against time, in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear….

PC Grant has finally left London – albeit reluctantly – when two eleven-year-old girls go missing in rural Herefordshire. There is no indication anything paranormal is related to the disappearance, but anything related to children really needs to be checked out personally. Once he’s there, Peter realizes that not everything may be as it seems.

This is the fifth book in the Rivers of London series, and I am absolutely, thoroughly enjoying myself with it. Aaronovitch has the uncanny ability to make me both laugh aloud and groan or want to cover my eyes as I continue to devour every word. Peter is still very much a novice at all this wizardry and magical stuff, but this is the first book where I can really get a good feel and sense for the power he is growing and how his dedication to his training is finally beginning to pay off. He’s been able to cast some spells since almost the first book – but I have always to date had a strong sense that Peter as a wizard and practitioner was still forming and learning and finding his feet.

He is absolutely still a novice to my mind here, but there is equally a strong sense of his growing, learning and becoming more powerful. I love how this isn’t happening overnight or in between books with big gaps or lags to “account” for his growing prowess. This does make the timeline feel more dragged out, sure, but it also makes it more realistic and gives me the reader a better feel for just how long-term magical powers in this world have to be earned and learned over a period of time. I really like that.

I also enjoyed how this time while Peter has plenty of support – with regular phone calls back to the Folly and Nightingale and with a slew of supportive and helpful fellow police officers in the local precinct, this is the first time Peter really has performed his duties primarily alone and on his own steam. I have never doubted Peters intelligence or his training as a police officer, but it was rather lovely to see him acting pretty much on his own – just with plenty of support from secondary sources. In many ways Peter seemed in this book to be spreading his wings and testing his boundaries and I felt this was an optimal time and Peter was ready for the task. That was wonderful to read.

The previous book ended with quite a strong twist. I will say that this is clearly something of the larger story arc and so it wasn’t fully resolved in this book, but there was movement, and this plotline was not ignored. I could understand if some readers are really hanging out for this resolution, but as there are a number of plotlines like this related to the much larger arc that are only slightly added to each book (like Nightingale’s background, what really happened during the war, and the whole drama surrounding the Faceless Man) I really don’t think these small additions but no massive movement forward should really be a shock to anyone. Much like these other plots I’ve mentioned – there is movement, and acknowledgement in most of these areas – but these are slower burning plots and I’m learning that patience is needed for them all.

Readers looking for a light and funny as well as paranormal and intriguing mystery novel really should love this book. Personally, I’d start at the start of the series for while this book possibly could be read by itself it’s really quite deeply involved in the longer story arc, and I feel readers really should go to the beginning and start with Rivers of London – the first in the series. It’s well worth the price of admission and this series is quickly becoming one of my all-time favourites. Highly recommended.

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