Paul Cornell is better known for his work on Doctor Who, as well as that for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. I was a bit intrigued by the premise of London Falling when I received the ARC and GRRM's blurb finally made me decide to give it a shot.
Here's the blurb:
The dark is rising . . . Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence analyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal.
Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out. Now, the team must find a 'suspect' who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again.
As the group starts to see London’s sinister magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game - and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.
You can read an extract from the novel here.
The London-based setting gives London Falling a different vibe than that of the bestselling US-based urban fantasy series out there. It's definitely British through and through, which could likely make or break the novel for some readers. Personally, I enjoyed the dark and hidden side of the city that the foursome of protagonists discover when they develop the Sight. It's in that particular aspect of the tale that Cornell's imagination really shines through. However, making football/soccer such an integral part of the story was sort of over the top at times, and I have a feeling that some people might find that a bit off-putting.
The characterization was my favorite aspect of the book. I feel that Paul Cornell created a very nice balance between the four principal characters; Detective Inspector James Quill, intelligence analyst Lisa Ross, and the two undercover agents Costain and Sefton. The author did a great job weaving each character's back story with the actual plot. The cast is quite disparate in every aspect of their personalities. Getting to know them as they learn to work together and trust one another was doubtless one of the most interesting facets of this work.
Although London Falling is a stand-alone novel, it does feel like the first installment in an episodic series. The author's background in television and comic books is evident in that regard. And though there is resolution of the major plotlines and closure at the end of the book, London Falling ends with a "to be continued" finale which I wasn't necessarily thrilled about. There were enough doors left open throughout the novel to let everyone know that sequels were forthcoming. Hence, I felt that the epilogue was a bit superfluous.
In terms of rhythm, London Falling begins with a bang and grabs hold of the reader's imagination from the start. The prose is fluid through the first 2/3 of the book. Then, the pace slows to a crawl all of a sudden, killing the momentum garnered up until that point, and shockingly London Falling loses a lot of steam for about 100 pages until the story picks up again and we reach the ending. For that reason, due to the uneven pace, I feel that, in the end, the novel failed to live up to its early potential.
The final verdict: 7.5/10
For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.