I first stumbled upon Low Town whilst hunting through boxes of second hand books at a garage sale. The title caught my interest, so I looked at the blurb. Detective thriller set in a fantasy world... within seconds I was handing over my money and salivating at the prospect of reading it when I got home. Unfortunately life got in the way for a few weeks, with work and a sick child taking precednece. However when I finally did get around to reading it I was not disappointed!
Low Town is set in a fantastical world that is dark, gritty, and bloody. The main protagonist, Warden, is a middle of the range drug peddler and user with a chequered past. When children start showing up murdered in Low Town, his past catches up with him as he is pulled into solving the mystery behind the murders gripping the city. Low Town reads like a crime novel. Warden is your typical over the hill detective... past his prime, weary of life, and generally bitter and cynical of the world around him. What makes him different from other crime protagonists however is how he is wielded by Polansky. Using first person narrative, we are immersed in the thoughts and motivations of Warden as he attempts to solve the riddles of the murders. We slowly learn about his past through his encounters, dreams, recollections and actions. We also learn just how little we know about him. Who is he really? Where did he come from? What is motivating him? These mysteries drive the story forward at a great pace, and keep the reader wanting more with every page read.
Combined with this narrative we have gripping action and bloody realism. Warden is not some all conquering hero, he cheats, lies, and plays dirty. Children die, innocents get caught in the crossfire, and Warden often gets the living shit kicked out of him by drug rivals and opponents. Polansky's world building is also top notch and gritty. I could almost taste the scents of Low Town, and feel the cold from the storms as they roared in. This realism added depth and tension to the story for me, and reminded me of Abercrombie and his work.
There were some flaws with this novel (use of stereotypes like and a twist that was relatively easy to work out), but they were so inconsequential to me that barely warrant mention. I was that entertained whilst reading this!
A bloody good debut. If you love fantasy or crime fiction then this is well worth your time.
5 out of 5 stars.
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