It’s been some time since I’ve read the Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence, where the reader had the fun of following a delightfully amoral youth in his quest for vengeance and more. Ever since, I’ve been noticing the Low Town book creeping into my recommendations list in Goodreads. At last, I got to pick up the novel and delve into Low Town. So, is the book worth it?

The plot has a sort of low-fantasy setting, with the story being more of a grim noir-type stuff, than the regular fantasy series we often encounter in the course of our reading.  It is a sort of crime-mystery, but is not a conventional kind of book.

So, the story. The novel follows a middle-aged man called The Warden, a war-veteran and an agent of the Crown, now disgraced and making a living as a moderately successful drug dealer. One unfortunate day, he stumbles across the body of a little girl, who’s clearly been raped and tossed aside into a dilapidated section of the city. However, the issue was not just the rape, it was also the way in which the murderer covered his tracks; even the scryers[magic guys] couldn’t detect a whiff of evidence on the corpse. Circumstances force the Warden into performing an investigation into the matter on his own.

This is how the cookie begins to crumble, so to speak. The story is narrated in first-person from the POV of the Warden, and is it fun to read. The Warden is a person of no morals, and this could be no more evident in his actions and thoughts.  For a sample of the Warden’s thinking, look at this :

” I awoke with a headache that made my swollen ankle feel like a hand-job from a ten-ochre an hour hooker.”

Most of the book is sprinkled liberally with dry, oddball humor like this. Needless to say, you’ll grow to love the protagonist, what with his drug-peddling and pissing people off, and all. His companions are interesting characters as well, notably Adolphus his war-time buddy and present owner of The Staggering Earl, a bar and inn; and Wren, a street urchin the protagonist picks up on his visits to the seedy underbelly of Low Town. But the best of all, is Low Town itself; Daniel Polansky has not just set the story in a fictional town, but he has in effect created a sort of character altogether. A living, breathing place, is Low Town.

So, is the book worth it? Hell yeah it is. This is not a typical good vs evil type of fantasy. If you’re fans of Mark Lawrence’s works, or even dark crime-fiction in general, you’ll love this book. In reality, this is the kind of book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, and am I glad at finding this…

A brilliant first book by Daniel Polansky. I’m going to rush through this series for sure, if the follow-ups are as good as this.

RATING : 9.2/10

Incidentally, the novel has released with the title ” The Straight Razor Cure” in Europe.

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