Review: “The Hanging Tree” by Ben Aaronovitch

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Review: “The Hanging Tree” by Ben AaronovitchThe Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: Peter Grant #6
Published by Daw Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Urban, Dark Fantasy, Humorous
Pages: 336
five-stars

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Where the Marble Arch stands today in London was once the Tyburn gallows--also known as The Hanging Tree. The walk toward those gallows along Oxford Street and past the Mayfair mansions has a bloody and haunted history as the last trip of the condemned. Some things never change. For both blood and ghosts have returned to those mansions of the super-rich. And it's up to Peter Grant--England's last wizard and the Metropolitan Police's reluctant investigator of all things supernatural--to get to the bottom of the sinister doings.

 

Peter Grant is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.

“There are undoubtedly going to be consequences,” he said.
Which was Nightingale for: Look out, here comes the shit avalanche.

I enjoyed the last Peter Grant book, Foxglove Summer, but couldn’t deny that it had something of a filler episode. The equivalent of the crime show where they spent several episodes hunting the serial killer and then there is one that just has a case of the week and nobody even mentions the serial killer. Generally, that means that in the episode after that things go boom. (Not necessarily literally).

The Hanging Tree is like that. First it looks like Peter is just investigating an ordinary case of the week (well, as far as magic is ordinary…also it’s really more a case of the year…I shouldn’t have taken that comparison quite as far), but it soon turns out that he is getting much closer to the Big Bad of the series than he did in the previous book. And things go boom. Non-literally and literally. And things get set on fire. A lot.
The result is a very fast-paced book that made me go what at unexpected new developments several times. Still, that doesn’t just mean sending the protagonist from one physically draining situation to the next till you wonder why he hasn’t collapsed from sheer exhaustion, yet. There’s a good balance between new revelations, emotional roller-coasters and magic battles (in which things go boom).

So The Hanging Tree brings the background-story a huge step forward. More than any of the previous books in the series. Which is a good thing because even in such a highly enjoyable series it can get frustrating if all you get are minute scraps of information but never answer any questions. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that any of the plotlines are close to a conclusion since we get some exciting new questions (some of which I actually find a lot more interesting than the old ones).

Another thing I had missed in Foxglove Summer were the majority of the regular cast. Since the book was set in the West Midlands, most of the London-based characters appeared only shortly or not at all. Now, we got to meet some great new characters but they couldn’t quite make up for the lack of beloved regulars. In this book, we see them all again and meet some fascinating new ones (I hope we’ll get to read more about Lady Helena).

Besides all that we also learn a bit more about the History of Magic, another thing that was mostly put on hold in the last book. It’s not much (it never is, damn you Ben Aaronovitch) but it’s still more than just some vague teasing. We learn a bit more about magic outside of Britain (and we are reminded that in Britain magic was for white upper-class men. That is not new information, but this time Aaronovitch is a lot less subtle about pointing out that many of the wizards of the past have a lot more in common with present-day, rich, white non-wizards than they have with Peter).

All in all the book left me wishing for nothing (except perhaps Nightingale-backstory…but I’ll always want more Nightingale-backstory)

five-stars
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English student who spends a lot of time reading, mostly crime and fantasy, both YA and non-YA. I also enjoy the occasional historical novel (The Anarchy, lately also Age of Sail) and various non-fiction/true crime books. My non-bookish interests include knitting and crime-shows.

1 COMMENT

  1. Couldn’t agree more on always wanting more backstory on Nightingale. Remember how tantalizing the simple mystery of “how old are you, anyway?” was in the first one? It also seemed like it might turn sinister.

    Foxglove Summer was DEFINITELY a breather episode, even filler-y if we want to be uncharitable. This one was weird for me in that while there are big revelations, there’s just so much happening that it almost felt like a soap opera; I bet this is the one that someone would get the least out of if they read it alone, without the rest of the series.

    There are even some jokes that you have to have been playing close attention to the other books to get; like Peter joke-haughtily asserting to us that “she was reading Environmental Science — you don’t study subjects at uni, you read them” which I spotted as one of the things Nightingale old-ed at him in a previous book.

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