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Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

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Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

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Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded


The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
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REVIEW | Low Town by Daniel Polansky

Note this book is being published as Low Town in the US and as The Straight Razor Cure in the UK.

Low Town is Polansky's debut, but it certainly doesn't feel like it as it's a very self assured first effort. The setting is a Fantasy world, but one not as backward as we are used to. It is actually more of an Urban Fantasy as most of the action takes place in a city, which definitely gave it a very gritty feel as we meet all kinds of ruffians, gangsters, drug dealers, dark wizards, and other unsavory types.

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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Anonymous said...

Sounds decent enough. Does it compare to the Dresden Files at all?

The Mad Hatter said...

Not really. The Warden is more of a loner so you don't see that group aspect coming out much. He does have a helper or two, but they don't get into the fray much. It is more about pitting one group against another so he can do what needs doing. And The Warden isn't a magic guy, but he knows a few practitioners.