My Review of Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch 5/10
Sometimes it’s hard when things don’t live up to expectation. It’s important to remember even the best story tellers can have bad days and having been a fan of this series for a number of years I can honestly say this is my least favourite book (of the series). Foxglove Summer (still trying to figure out why this particular title was used, the reference only appears once in the book that I remember) has a number of favourable elements going for it, but unfortunately it has a number of negative ones, which do outweigh the positive.
For those expecting the next instalment in the hunt for the Faceless Man, I am afraid you will be disappointed. What Aaronovitch has written is a standalone novel with little or no linkage back to the last book. Peter is off on his own, no Nightingale, Molly or even Toby. This is not a bad thing in on itself, but I felt the treatment did not necessitate a full novel and by removing the ‘filler’ this would have been a great novella.
It was good to see Peter break out on his own, thinking and acting for himself and getting creative with his ideas concerning magic. Unfortunately, we are given these flashes of independent thinking without the detail or thoughts I had come to expect and have read from the other novels. It just feels we are expected to take some of the concepts presented on face value, either because Aaronovitch did not or could not expand on the material.
If you are reading Foxglove Summer you are already familiar with the background, characters and story styling offered throughout the series. There has always been a lot of attention to detail in relation to police call signs, procedures and operational material and in contrast to my previous paragraph Aaronovitch went into overdrive with these story details. The shear amount of acronyms used for police related material got to a point I began to gloss over these sections and paragraphs, searching for the position the story took up again. One page in particular comes to mind, where it felt like I was reading line after line of police jargon.
I know this is only a small thing, but it was indicative off many of the other negative themes. There were constant references to how hot the summer was, which had no impact on the plot. Okay, it’s hot, mention it and move on. Over description of streets, buildings, people and the shape of a single dew drop, perfect like the tear of an angel on an astonishingly imperfect leaf, on a summer’s morning, the sunlight shining through its heavenly clearness. Yes, the last one was me, and yes, I am being flippant, but it really was overkill, detracting from the story rather than adding to it.
Aaronovitch leads the reader through a story of child abduction and return, but gives no strong rationale why these kids have been taken in the first place other than a disenchanted, because this is what elves do. It’s deflating and disappointing. I am not sure if this was just me, but in previous books I remember being told that there was no other magic practitioners alive in Britain and now low and behold we find out there are many retired ex-folly magic users living in the country, have their own society and Nightingale knows all about them. If you were going to drop a major change in this, I would have hoped for something as like a secret society as an explanation not just slipping it in, hoping no one notices.
Aspects of the story like the conclusion felt overstated and superfluous (kind of like me and this review), elves tall, graceful and quick silver taking kids back to their alternative reality. It’s not original, it’s not inventive and basically it was a snore-fest. The only somewhat unique component was when the elves did return to their reality they became more real and grittier, but as this lasted about two pages, it really it’s a big selling point.
Understandably, you can’t expect gold all the time and regardless of the flaws in the story I did enjoy some fundamentals of this story. However, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were scaled back and a novella was offered.
Peter Grant is still as enjoyable and relatable a character to read as ever. The world he inhabits will still draw me back again but Foxglove Summer… I will put this down as a disenfranchised story, which thankfully doesn’t detract from the main plot. Roll on Hanging Tree, redemption awaits…
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