A superb dramatization of one of my favorite fantasy books about a modern-day underworld. When Richard Mayhew bails on an important dinner with his overly-critical fiance and her boss to help a hurt young girl on the street, his act of kindness propels him into a world of London that’s as familiar as it is forgotten, the London Below.

London Below brings a romance to the shadowed corners of the city, from the pigeon-topped spires to the underground floating markets, with bridges of darkness that take people away. The dirty pseudo-medieval underground society is fraught with mystery, danger, and magic. With just a twist of the underground tube station stops, Gaiman has an ability to set just enough on the page, so that the reader (or listener) can create an scene and picture from their own wild imaginings. Part fantasy, part mythology, this is the type of story that bring out the whimsical and grotesque in the everyday and ordinary.

Technically, this is a classic hero’s journey tale, and I love the re-imagination of tropes associated with meta-fictional fantasy, in which the protagonist leaves the real world to go on a quest into the fantasy world. My favorite tropes include the underground monster that must be killed (the Beast), the badass assassin (Hunter), and the journey into the mind (in which Richard faces his worst fears in the Ordeal).

If you haven’t read the full story, I would highly recommend doing so before listening to this abridged dramatization, as I believe this edition alone would be more difficult to follow. With that said, the all-star cast is fantastic. McAvoy pulls off the earnest reluctant hero as Richard, Dormer is a strong and determined Door, Lee is a perfect bumbling Earl, Head is a terrifying Mr. Croup, and Cumberbatch is a larger-than-life yet cryptic Islington. I love this adaptation!

“We have to get the… the thing I got… to the Angel. And then he’ll tell Door about her family, and he’ll tell me how to get home.”
Lamia looked at Hunter with delight. “And he can give you brains,” she said, cheerfully, “and me a heart.