Carolyn Cushman Reviews Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch and Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Ben Aaronovitch, Lies Sleeping (DAW 978-0-7564-1513-6, $26.00, 293pp, hc) November 2018. Cover by Stephen Walter.

Major developments turn up in this seventh novel in the Rivers of London series, which finds police detective/apprentice wizard Peter Grant and a good-sized police team working hard to track down Martin Chorley, the second Faceless Man, and his as­sociate, former Police Constable Lesley May. Their efforts include tracking down members of an Oxford dining club who dabbled in magic, a special bell, and an old sword – and suggestions that Chorley might be trying something involving old legends of Britain. Certainly Lesley May has a thing about Mr. Punch, and Chorley for Arthu­riana and old Roman temples – in some rather horrifying ways. As usual, Peter gets help from the rivers, fae turn up, and Peter finds himself fi­nally reading The Silmarillion, offering amusing bits of commentary. His knowledge of Tolkien is quite impressive, as well as his interest in archi­tectural details (very British, mind you – I had to look up “pebble-dash”), and his turns of phrase often manage to be simultaneously succinct and entertainingly snarky. Things build to a peak with thrilling confrontations, an impressively weird final battle, and a big surprise at the end. If this were an American TV series, I’d say it was about to jump the shark, but Aaronovitch has a way with surprising developments, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out.

Katherine Arden, Small Spaces (Putnam 978-0-525-51502-9, $16.99, 216pp, hc) September 2018. Cover by Matt Saunders.

Arden brings her quirky fantasy to middle-grade readers in this tale of Olivia “Ollie” Adler, a grieving girl who unthinkingly steals a book that a woman is trying to destroy. When Ollie starts reading, she finds a spooky story about a family who make some dark bargains. The next day, on a field trip to a local farm, she discovers that some of the characters in the book were real people, living on that farm – which starts getting a little spooky, too. The bus breaks down on the way home and things get really scary, with Ollie running for her life with a couple of classmates she dislikes, looking for the “small spaces” to hide in that people keep telling her to find. Some seriously macabre encounters keep the chills coming, but also lead Ollie to some important realizations about the dangers of getting lost in grief and prejudging people, as her classmates turn out to have hidden depths, providing support and some much needed comic relief as they face off with the evil pursing them.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the December 2018 issue of Locus.

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