Books: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

My son spotted this book lying around and asked about it, and after I described in the vaguest of terms the general sense of the Peter Grant series, my son said, "Oh. It's Harry Potter for grown-ups."

Yeah, kinda.

I've enjoyed the series, of which Broken Homes is the fourth installment. I did get tripped up by the seriously bad editing job, however. I used to work in publishing as an editor, so maybe I'm oversensitive, but I think these would be errors almost anyone might notice. Like, page 7*, which refers to Richard Weil as a "dead Volvo driver." Except, assuming I've followed the action on pages 1–3 correctly, Richard Weil (identified as driver of the Volvo in the very first sentence of the book) isn't dead. In fact, he ends up taken in for questioning on suspicion of murder. Which you don't typically do with dead people, even in a Peter Grant book.

And page 216 uses Gandalf as a villain as an example. Is Gandalf a villain? Did I miss something in all those years of reading and watching Lord of the Rings? I'm going to assume Aaronovitch meant Saruman, but still, pretty glaring.

Okay, so those are nitpicky things to do with the writing, but then there's the actual editing, wherein typos too numerous to include here (yes, even taking British spelling into account) niggled at me, and a floating comma on page 94 nearly gave me a seizure . . . Seriously, these things scream "slapdash!" Did anyone read the fucking thing before printing? Proofs? Anyone?

Yes, all right, you want to know about the story. Fine. It's scatty, actually. A bit mosaic, more so than typical even for these books, by which I mean there are a lot of incidents, a few of which add up to what becomes the central plot, and a few that remain hanging, to be threaded into future plots I suppose. Aaronovitch tips his hand a bit too obviously in Chapter 17, so that the twist ending is utterly foreseeable, and the groundwork is also being vociferously laid for Nightingale to go the way of Dumbledore at some point, though I do hope we'll avoid that old chestnut. I like Nightingale and feel the books could do with more of him.

The big draw for me when it comes to these books is that as the main character, Peter Grant's tone is just the right balance of smart and smart-ass. He's fun, and because the books are filtered through his POV, they're fun to read. The world Aaronovitch has built is layered and intoxicating. It's good stuff. Mostly. Though do we always have to meet the bad guy on a rooftop?

Bottom line is: Broken Homes is a good book (even for a weak link in a strong series) and sets up some interesting dynamics for any forthcoming follow-ups. I was distracted and distressed by those editing snafus I mentioned, and I felt the book took a while to gain traction, but at least Peter keeps things amusing even when doing mundane work. Though, when you're a wizard apprentice, perhaps there's no such thing as mundane . . .

*Page numbers and editing problems refer to the hardcover first edition of this book (UK) and may not be applicable to subsequent editions. At least, one hopes not.

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