Note this book is being published as Low Town in the US and as The Straight Razor Cure in the UK.
The Fantasy actually comes off secondary to the Noir feel with the first person POV and the dark nature of the characters. In fact this isn't even your usual Fantasy city. It is a world that is on the cusp of advancement as there is talk of explosives and other innovations here and there. Though the city is also dependent on magic for protection from a plague that ravaged the area the generation prior.
The protagonist affectionately called The Warden is a disgraced ex-secret police officer turned drugged dealer. After a murder of a child in Low Town The Warden can't turn away from the case that leads him to what looks like a conspiracy of magic and also his past in the great war. Things quickly escalate as The Warden searches for the culprit and is tossed from groups on both side of the law. He plays all the groups quite well surprising even himself.
If you don't like drug use in your stories than don't touch Low Town. The Warden is an addict himself although he wouldn't admit it, but he is probably not as bad as his customers. The characterization of The Warden is quite strong so the drug use and distribution feels natural for him however abhorrent it may be. He isn't peddling light weight drugs most of the time. He lives a hard life full of dangers he mostly brings upon himself. He also lives above a tavern so he is seen knocking back quite a few as the story progresses.
Per its Noir sensibilities there are lots of twists and fake-outs, but the big reveal was foreshadowed a bit too heavily for me. It was only a slight comment, but from that point I knew pretty much where the story would go. The story also didn't go as deep as I was hoping exploring more of the characters, but it was a fun adventure getting to the end. And The Warden has a fantastic perspective.
Fans of Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse and Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels would certainly enjoy Low Town, but for Noir lovers you've found your new favorite series. I do worry Low Town isn't magical enough for avid Fantasy readers expecting more, but it is a rough and tumble novel that keeps a quick pace and never loses its edge. I give Low Town/The Straight Razor Cure 8 out of 10 hats. I'll definitely be back for more as this looks to be a long running series yet Low Town stands alone quite well all its own. Low Town/The Straight Razor Cure will be released this August on both sides of the pond.
And always remember: What happens in Low Town stays in Low Town.
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