Title: London Falling
Author: Paul Cornell
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor; pub. date April 16, 2013
I stumbled across London Falling when I was putting up a fantasy fiction display for my library. It had everything that I love in a book: Urban Fantasy, Police Procedural, Set in London. I’ve been looking for something to tide me over while I wait for the newest Ben Aaronovitch book so this seemed perfect. This is Cornell’s first urban fantasy novel; his previous work seems to be primarily graphic novels and some Doctor Who novelizations. The urban aspect is present from the word go in the book, opening with an undercover operation trying to nail a high level mobster type character. The desperation and panic present makes for a compelling opening. The fantasy aspect falls into line a little later in the book; Cornell’s plot works more with alluding to the supernatural than doing an out-right finger point at the beginning. The reader is exposed to this new supernatural underbelly in much the same manner as the characters in the book. As the characters learn more about what is going on, so does the reader. For me personally, this made the book a little bit more difficult to get into. The confusion and disparity between the characters comes through in some of the plot making it difficult to follow in some places.
But, there was enough promise in the book so I stuck with it. As the plot develops, it became much more enjoyable. The characters start to become a more cohesive group and more of the fantastical aspects began to come forth(characters and magic, it’s what I’m all about). The dark and gritty nature of the book remains prevalent throughout. There isn’t a lot of humor or a lot of wins to cut that which can make it a somewhat dreary read. If you’re looking for humor and hi-jinx, this is not the book for you. A lot of urban fantasy has this dark and gritty nature, it’s a large part of what gives the genre the “urban” descriptor. But in many books there’s either humor, romance, or small wins throughout that help break up the dark and oppressive nature of what is being fought against. In London Falling it’s more a continuing succession of near misses, fails, or painful victories that advance the plot and help the characters move forward towards nicking the criminal. Sefton and Ross, two of the main characters, both make big discoveries in the novel but both also suffer for it. There are no easy wins.
I’m glad I found Cornell’s book and I genuinely hope that he has a go at making this a series. I think the characters have a lot of potential and even though it’s darker than my usual reads, I liked the realism that is so tightly entwined with the fantastical in the novel. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, a lot of horrible and awful things, and seeing Cornell’s characters really struggle with that, both externally and internally, makes for a fascinating read.