Book Review: False Value by Ben Aaronovitch
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 8 of Peter Grant/Rivers of London
Publisher: DAW (February 25, 2020)
Length: 304 pages
You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to this book. We’re now on the eighth installment of the Rivers of London series, and as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the Faceless Man arc, I also felt it was high time we moved onto something new. Still, while we may be at the dawn of a new chapter in Peter Grant’s life here in False Value, there are still a few mysteries left over from the previous books. Certainly, the novel still contains a lot of references and connections to past events so this might not be the best point to jump on board, and the following review may also discuss those things, so only proceed if you’re caught all up!
With his impending fatherhood in mind (twins on the way!) and his current standing with the Metropolitan Police on shaky ground, it’s pretty safe to say our protagonist is keen for some new work right about now. And as luck would have it, an ex-cop at an organization called Serious Cybernetics Company has caught wind of Peter’s suspension and is interested in offering him a job in their security department. A new start-up by Silicon Valley rising star and billionaire Terrence Skinner, the SCC is heavily involved in artificial intelligence research and development, employing a bunch nerds and geeks, meaning Peter should fit right in. And a good thing too, because his job is to infiltrate the personnel and root out the identity of the employee trying to gain forbidden entry into the company’s most classified project.
As a police officer, Peter thinks finding the “rat” among the “mice” while blending in with the civvies should be a cinch. But then the job grows complicated when he uncovers a fellow magic practitioner during his investigation of the recent break-ins, and realizes the two of them have a history. Next, an attempt is made on Terrence Skinner’s life. Someone appears to be targeting the company founder, but the more he digs, the more Peter is convinced that everything comes down to the mysterious work being done on the top-secret floor at the SCC known as Bambleweeny.
Just as all the previous novels have been filled with pop-culture related in-jokes referencing everything from Harry Potter to Doctor Who, False Value is a geek heaven for sci-fi fans with a love of Douglas Adams, Battlestar Galactica, and even some tech history—like the achievements of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. It’s nice to see that even with the new storyline, Ben Aaronovitch has retained his cleverness and good sense of humor. These Rivers of London books have never ceased to make me crack up, and ultimately that’s what keeps me coming back and why this is one of my favorite urban fantasy series.
But it’s also undeniable that, for the last few books, the story had been getting increasingly complicated and confusing. With this fresh start though, Peter Grant is back in detective mode, rather than being too busy getting tangled up in Faceless Man and Lesley May drama. I loved the undercover aspect of his role, as it truly brings out his dedication to police work as well as his intellect and skill. False Value also shows a lot more of Peter’s relationships with the people around him including Nightingale, his mentor, and Beverly Brook, his girlfriend and soon-to-be mother of his children. While the relationship between Peter and Bev is clearly special, there’s hints of a conflict brewing as he finally realizes the full implications of being involved with a river goddess. She’s more benevolent than a lot of genius loci, but she’s still unpredictable in her power and knows exactly the effect she has on others. Not to mention, being a new father is intimidating enough without having to wonder if your kids will turn out to be minor deities like their mother.
With this volume, we also see an expansion of the magical community beyond the United Kingdom. Peter has had dealings with agents from across the pond in the past, but False Value brings the Americans quite literally onto the Folly’s doorstep, and one of them is even powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with Nightingale. This particular thread is an intriguing one so I don’t want to reveal much more, but Peter does come to appreciate that magical schools around the world have their own traditions and also not all of them view the spirits of place as kindly as the Brits do.
All in all, I thought False Value was a great read, considering it’s the first book to move beyond the Faceless Man story arc. We’re in the early stages of something new, so of course there is still this sense that things are developing, but on the whole, I enjoyed the new direction and dynamics introduced here. Big things are clearly coming for Peter Grant and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next book will take us.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Whispers Underground (Book 3)
Review of Broken Homes (Book 4)
Review of Foxglove Summer (Book 5)
Review of The Furthest Station (Book 5.7)
Review of The Hanging Tree (Book 6)
Review of Lies Sleeping (Book 7)