Publishers: Gollancz and Orion Audio (Audiobook format – 15 November 2018)
Series: Rivers of London – Book 7
Length: 10 hours 25 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Prepare to dive headfirst into one of the best urban fantasy series in the world today, with the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, Lies Sleeping.
London is a magical place, especially for Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard. Peter is a member of an elite unit of the London Metropolitan Police, known as the Folly, which is tasked with investigating magical crimes and protecting the city from all sorts of magical threats. The person at the top of the Folly’s most wanted list is Martin Chorley, also known as the Faceless Man, a magical criminal mastermind who is determined to do whatever it takes to gain power. However, despite the Met and the Folly’s considerable resources, Chorley is always able to stay one step ahead of those chasing him.
During a routine attempt to subtly panic several of Chorley’s known associates, a magical creature attacks a potential witness. Peter’s investigation soon reveals that the witness had ordered the forging of a large and mysterious bell, which Chorley is desperate to get his hands on. As Peter and his team dig deeper in the bell’s construction, they quickly begin to realise that Chorley is the final stages of his master plan, a plan tied deeply into the heart of London’s dark and bloody history, and one which could cause untold disaster for the entire city.
As the clock ticks down, Peter needs to work out the connection between London’s past and the mysterious magical events occurring all over the city. Can Peter and his team once again save the day, or will their adversary finally obtain the power he has always desired? Moreover, what will Peter do when he comes face to face with the woman who betrayed him to Chorley, his old partner in the Met, Lesley May?
Ben Aaronovitch is a highly regarded author with an interesting writing history to his name. His writing career began back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he wrote a couple of Doctor Who television serials, including the highly regarded serial Remembrance of the Daleks, as well as three entries in the Virgin New Adventures series of Doctor Who books. The Virgin New Adventure series chronicled the adventures of the Doctor after the television show’s hiatus in 1989. Aaronovitch’s three entries in this book series sound incredibly interesting, although they were considered to be somewhat controversial at the time due to their more adult content. Aaronovitch did not get around to writing his fantasy work until 2011, when he wrote the urban fantasy Rivers of London. This was the first book in the author’s Rivers of London series of books (alternatively known as the Peter Grant series or the PC Grant series), for which the author is best known for. The Rivers of London series is very highly regarded, and Aaronovitch has worked hard to expand on the story and universe of this series, writing a number of novellas, short stories and graphic novels on top of the series’ main seven books.
Before Lies Sleeping, I had never got around to reading any of Aaronovitch’s books, despite hearing good things about his main series. As a result, I was very happy that I finally managed to check out the series earlier this year. I did receive a trade paperback edition from Hachette Australia, but in the end, I chose to listen to the audiobook version of this book, narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. I have to say that I was extremely impressed with this brilliant book and found that I really enjoyed the excellent and captivating story. Lies Sleeping easily gets a full five-star rating from me, and I fully intend to go back and check out the other books in this series. This book is an excellent blend of the fantasy and crime fiction genres, both of which come together perfectly to create an extremely compelling and complex read.
Lies Sleeping will prove to be extremely appealing to huge range of people; not only pre-existing fans of the series but also those readers who have not read any of the Rivers of London books before. As a first-time Aaronovitch reader, I found that it was incredibly easy to step in and enjoy this series, as the author did a fantastic job making Lies Sleeping accessible to everyone. While Aaronovitch has created a huge amount of lore around his series, including in his novellas and comics, the reader does not need to have any knowledge of these or the previous six books in the series to fully understand the entirety of Lies Sleeping’s story. However, those readers who do have experience with this series will love how the story continues to development, as well as the massive and surprising twists that occur throughout the book.
At the core of this book lies a series of intriguing mysteries that take place throughout London. In order to achieve his villainous goals, the antagonist has embarked on a series of seemingly random and chaotic crimes and ventures, all of which apparently form part of his master plan. These various mysteries or criminal events were really interesting, and I liked trying to work out how they would all come together. I particularly liked how various parts of these mysteries were deeply tied into the history of London, and the protagonist needed to gain a historical understanding of some of various myths and legends surrounding London. Watching the protagonist attempt to unwind the complex plan of the book’s villains was extremely compelling, and I had a great time trying to work out what was happening myself. One or two threads of these mysteries did go unsolved in this book, and I will be curious to see if they are picked up in any of the future entries in this franchise.
Aaronovitch is clearly a very creative writer, as he utilises a huge range of different and fairly unique fantasy elements throughout this book. While there are a large number of wizards, spells and elvish beings throughout the book, the main focus is on the titular rivers of the series. The more common magical beings encountered in this series are the personifications of the various rivers and waterways (current and historical) that flow through and around London. These beings are similar to gods, although the term genius loci may be more appropriate, and have a huge range of powers. These are a really intriguing addition to the book, and it was interesting to see the protagonist attempt to deal and interact with the various river characters, including his girlfriend, Beverly Brooke (yes, the main character of this series is dating a river). There is also a huge range of other genius loci, or similar beings, that are featured within the story, including the mysterious and insane Mr Punch. The magic that the human characters utilise is complex and slightly less ostentatious than some classic pieces of fantasy, but when the master wizards get to work it can be quite impressive.
One of the things I liked best about this book is how the author could create a realistic British police narrative and ensure magic became part of the procedure. The Folly may be a special branch of the Metropolitan Police, but it is still part of the police force, and as such the characters are forced to follow standard procedure when investigating magical crimes. Having these elite magical characters fill out paperwork and other various elements of day-to-day police life was deeply amusing. I did like seeing how regular law enforcement tactics, anti-crime strategies and police combat techniques could be utilised against magical opponents. The overall fantasy elements of this book are really enjoyable, but I really liked to see them be blended with a classic British police story.
Aaronovitch has done a fantastic job creating a huge and intriguing group of characters for this series. The protagonist of Lies Sleeping and the Rivers of London series is Peter Grant, police officer and official wizard’s apprentice. Peter is the sort of protagonist I really enjoy (sarcastic, funny and determined) so I quite enjoyed having him narrate the story, making a number of great jokes throughout. The other police characters make up a great supporting and diverse cast, with a range of different abilities and characteristics. I especially liked the classy and wise Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last officially sanctioned English wizard and Peter’s mentor. He is an extremely charming and old-fashioned character who has a huge amount of magical power at his fingertips and who can be quite intimidating if he puts his mind to it. I also quite enjoyed the other magical characters that appeared throughout the book, as Aaronovitch has created a bevy of river gods and associated genius loci characters. I liked how many of these ancient characters portrayed modern characteristics and ways of speaking, even when talking in a historical context. Long-time readers of the series will also enjoy the further exploration of several recurring characters, including finally revealing the backstory of the mysterious Mr Punch.
While the protagonists and supporting cast are great characters, I really liked the antagonists in this story. The main villain of the story is Martin Chorley, also known as the Faceless Man. He is an excellent antagonist who is built up as a master planner, master magician and crazy villain before you even see him in the book. His master plan was fairly complex, and the character’s overall arc in this book featured some massive twists that I did not see coming. Lesley May is another really complex character who is a great addition to the series. Her relationship with Peter is one of the best parts of the book, as even after her betrayals earlier in the series, he is still trying to save her from herself. The way this works out in the end is quite dramatic, and it will be interesting to see where it goes from there.
While a large part of this book is set out more as a slow and steady police procedural, there are some fantastic action sequences within Lies Sleeping. These come about when the protagonist attempts to stop the plans of the Faceless Man, and all manner of chaos erupts. Nothing highlights this better than an extended action sequence which involves Peter chasing after a van on a bicycle, throwing fireballs, while all manner of debris is magically flung at him and several pursuing police vehicles. The magical duels between some of the participants, mainly Nightingale and Martin Chorley, can be particularly impressive, but I personally liked how many of the confrontations devolved into fist fights as both sides attempt to distract the other and disrupt their castings. Plus, where else are you likely to see British police with truncheons attempt to fight evil wizards? These amazing action sequences really added to the story, and it was great to see all this magic in action, rather than being theorised the entire time.
While I would have already been tempted to give Lies Sleeping a five-star review, the thing that definitely clinches it for me is the amazing audiobook adaption of the novel, narrated by actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. At nearly 10 hours and 30 minutes, this is a moderately easy audiobook to get through, and I had an absolute blast listening to it. Holdbrook-Smith has an amazing voice and his work narrating this audiobook was just incredible. His voice for protagonist and story narrator Peter perfectly encapsulated the character and got the full force of his witty and enjoyable personality across to the reader. I really liked all the voices that Holdbrook-Smith created for the various characters featured throughout Lies Sleeping, especially for some of the magical creatures, who had an air of ancient wisdom in their voices. However, without a doubt my favourite voice was the one for Nightingale. The voice chosen for Nightingale is full of all sorts of old British class, and I thought it fit the character perfectly and was one of my favourite parts of this whole audiobook. Aside from the outstanding voice work, I also quite liked the jazzy music that was played at the start of each chapter. It gave the book a real noir private investigator feel, and I like how it added to the tone of the book as a whole. The audiobook version of this book also helped me understand the story a bit better as an outsider to the series, and that, combined with Holdbrook-Smith’s brilliant voice work, makes me completely happy to recommend the audiobook format of Lies Sleeping.
Aaronovitch once again delivers a spectacular read that expertly combines amazing fantasy and crime fiction elements into one widely outstanding narrative. There are so many excellent elements to this book, and I had absolutely loved my first foray into the Rivers of London series. I strongly recommend listening to the Lies Sleeping audiobook, narrated by the very talented Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, but those readers who prefer to read their books will also find much to enjoy about this fantastic book. This is one of the best urban fantasy books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I fully intend to go back and check out all the preceding books in this series, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next. Five stars all the way.