Review of Daniel Polansky’s ‘Low Town’

Review of Daniel Polansky’s ‘Low Town’

I’m continually amazed how books that were written specifically for me often slip beneath my notice. It happened with Glen Cook’s ‘Black Company’ series. The entire series. Which I rectified last year. And it happened again with Daniel Polansky’s ‘Low Town.’ With ‘Low Town’ it wasn’t so egregious an offense. It was published in 2011. So, I only missed out on it for seven years as opposed to twenty-five for ‘The Black Company.’

Probably, there is some magnum opus of grimdark fantasy being written even as I type that I will discover in 2030. If I’m lucky. But I digress.

So, ‘Low Town’ by Daniel Polansky is awesome. It’s everything I love in a detective noir book. And this one just happens to be set in a fantasy realm as well, and for me, that’s just icing on the cake.

I compare every detective novel I read to my favorite of the genre, Dashiell Hammett’s ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ ‘Low Town’ compares favorably.

First off, the main character, the Warden, we don’t ever know his name, is tough, smart, resourceful, and slashes off dialogue with a razor wit. Not unlike MF’s Sam Spade. The Warden is a hard man, a cruel man, a man who makes his living by hocking drugs to survive, but he also has a code. There are things he won’t sink to, and he protects his own. He reminds me of Mal from Firefly in this regard, as if someone is part of his crew, then they are family to him. His list crew members may be short, but it grounds the Warden. It makes him someone you want on your side. It makes him someone you root for.

The story? Good solid detective noir stuff. Someone is murdering children in the Warden’s section of town, Low Town, the dregs, basically, and he enlists to stop it. Why he does so is only hinted at. His story is that he’s an ex-cop and was relieved from duty for some nebulous reason. There also seems to be some loss in his life associated with a young girl that particularly hits home for him enough that he interrupts his usual business of pushing drugs.

Now, I figured out the identity of who the bad guy was before the end. I’m thinking about halfway or so, and I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but this didn’t detract at all from the pleasure of the story. I had the broad strokes in mind but learning the minutia at the reveal was fun, too.

So, should you read it? ‘Low Town’ is a thrilling odyssey through the dregs of a fantasy metropolis. The city is dark and dangerous and has opium dens and ‘heathens’ and gangsters. It has duel-fighting nobleman douchebags and wizards and labyrinths and canals to drown in. It has plague and monsters and sorcerers who summon them. So the answer is obviously ‘YES.’ You should read it.

I will say that it galls me to pay $11.99 for an eBook. Even an awesome one. I bought it simply because I didn’t want to wait two days for shipping. I was weak. I still am. The hard copy, on the other hand, is $16.95 which is reasonable. So, if you can wait, and it’s been seven years so what’s a few more days, I’d say buy the hard copy. Either way, I think if you’re a fan of detective, fantasy, grimdark, or any amalgam of the three, read ‘Low Town.’ Now. Go.

Kevin Wright

-Amazon Author Page

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