8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lowdown on Low Town
Over the last couple of years, there has been a growing trend in what I guess you would call low fantasy. These are novels that aren't overly interested in the antics of kings, or the fate of nations, quite the opposite in fact as they focus primarily on ordinary people. Joe Abercrombie's work springs to mind. The Straight Razor Cure is written in a similar vein...
Published on 23 Aug 2011 by Pablo Cheesecake (The Eloquent...
3.0 out of 5 stars Average detective story; interesting setting
This story to this novel wouldn't be out of place on an ITV detective drama. It's the setting and its bleakness that saves the novel from being below average.
Published 18 months ago by Richard Cosgrove
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lowdown on Low Town,
Low Town has suffered through many terrible situations. From wars, where large portions of the population were killed, to plagues where bodies ended up rotting in the streets. Though times have been tough, the townsfolk just about managed to get by. Suddenly, a killer is stalking their children and many fear the return of the bad times.
When it comes to the denizens of Low Town, nobody is ever quite what they seem. The main protagonist, Warden is a perfect example of this. Down on his luck and no longer a member of military, his character flies in the face of your conventional fantasy hero. Warden is an ugly man, has violent tendencies and is a drug addict to boot. Not exactly the qualities you would you would expect in a leading man. Why then, did I find myself warming to him? Warden could have so easily been a one dimensional bully-boy, but when you read his interactions with those he cares about, you get glimpses of the man he once was prior to his fall from grace. This is a man that has seen (and probably done) horrible things in the past. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but at his core he retains a level of humanity that few of the other characters in the novel display.
The majority of magic and mystical elements that are used in the book are very low key, and this works well within the confines of the story. With a couple of notable exceptions, that are necessary for the plot to move forward, there is nothing that is too in your face. I like this toned down approach, as it gave the entire novel a much more realistic feel.
I enjoyed the way Polansky's writing shifted my suspicions from one character/potential killer, to the next. There were plenty of sufficiently blind alleys and red herrings that kept me on my toes.
Overall, Daniel Polansky's debut novel has been one of my favourite novels of this genre, so far this year. The blend of detective noir and fantasy seems like a good fit. This is a first class murder mystery with an eclectic cast of immoral characters, most of whom inhabit the sleazier side of humanity. They aren't a pleasant bunch but this does make it all the more interesting to read. The wintry streets of Low Town were great fun to visit and I hope I get the opportunity to read more of Warden's exploits in the future.
If you enjoy your fantasy dark and gritty then this could well be the novel for you. The Straight Razor Cure is available now.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully edgy piece of dark fantasy...,
We are quickly introduced to `The Warden', a grizzled, pragmatic, emotionally wounded inhabitant of this city. He serves as our protagonist, as he begins to investigate (for entirely practical reasons), the murder of a child, which rapidly spins out of control. The investigation itself is convincing and well written - there are no leaps of faith, no requirements to suspend disbelief - the logic is, if not Holmesian, certainly sensible. Whilst there are unexpected twists and turns, none of them are dependent upon the framework of the setting; there are no cop-outs.
The fantasy detective fiction idea isn't entirely new; I was reminded of Glen Cooks 'Garrett, P.I.' series. However, where Cook's text draws on the drawing room exploits of Nero Wolfe and other golden age detectives, `Low Town' carries a more obvious edge - rather than Wolfe, it shares a heritage with the likes of James Elroy.
The supporting characters are plentiful, and recognisable, but it would have been nice for them to have had a little more depth; I suspect they'll be fleshed out as the series progresses. That said, part of this may be our restriction to the first-person view provided by The Warden - and some characters may just be unknowable.
The plot is filled with action, double dealing, and the occasional revelation, wrapped around a core of moral ambiguity. Whilst `page-turner' is an overused phrase, I was certainly finding reasons to keep reading with every page, and ended up tearing through the text.
Overall, this is an intelligent novel, with interesting themes running through it, with a compelling central character in a wonderfully evoked, morally ambiguous world. Well recommended.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive and Gripping First Novel,
When a child is murdered, he chooses to investigate the crime and then comes under suspicion himself when there is a further incident. He is obliged to continue his investigations to protect himself from the attentions of the authorities. Despite the reasonable assumption that life does not count for a lot in Low Town, the child killing creates quite a stir which suggests that the place has its own set of moral values.
As a fantasy setting it probably takes about the first quarter of the book for the reader to be able to feel really familiar with the surroundings. After that the strong story line really takes hold and the book becomes quite a page turner. The writing is of high quality and the descriptions of people and places are particularly outstanding. This is an interesting blend of fantasy with a supernatural overlay and a little hint of romance thrown in. The climax is well thought out and logical though quite unexpected so the reader's interest is maintained to the end.
This is a very impressive first novel from the author and clearly there is plenty of scope for future episodes of Low Town. I believe that this is the first of a three installment deal and I look forward to the next episode.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low Town,
Rigus is the greatest city in the Thirteen Lands, a glittering metropolis of crystalline citadels and sumptuous manors, where the gentlewomen hide delicate smiles behind silken sleeves and bored nobles settle affairs of honour with cold steel. But light casts shadow, and in the darkness of the spires the baseborn struggle, eeking out an existence amidst the cast-offs of their betters. This is Low Town, a sprawling warren of side streets and back alleys, of boarded up windows and false storefronts. Here the corner boys do a steady trade to the dead-eyed and despairing, and a life can be bought with a clipped copper penny.
Low Town is an ugly place, and its champion is an ugly man. A former war hero and intelligence agent, now a crime lord addicted to cheap violence and expensive narcotics, the Warden spends his days hustling for customers and protecting turf, until the chance discovery of a murdered child sets him on a collision course with the life he'd left behind. As bodies bloat in the canal and winter buries the city, he plays a desperate game of deception, pitting the underworld powers against his former colleagues in the secret police, hoping to find the source of the evil before it consumes him, and perhaps the city itself.
In the tradition of Daniel Hammett and Gene Wolfe comes LOW TOWN THE STRAIGHT RAZOR CURE, a novel about the taint of blood and the impossibility of redemption. Bold, brilliant writing makes this a debut that will change the fantasy world landscape.
This is a story where Fantasy fans can get a taste of a hard boiled PI sort of character, with a good blend of dystopia and detective work in Low Town. The main protagonist is a Gritty been there and got the shirt detective Ex Low Town Government Special Services operative. He's now a man people fear on the streets, and is hired by the powers that be to find a murderer. The story is a straight forward search for killer story blended with a different setting, new rules and some new kind of characters to the long existing detective genre.
I am not head over heels in joy was an ok story, the author does present some skilled writing here.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of fantasy,
Saying that, I didn't immediately warm to the main character, the rather unsavoury Warden. And it wasn't until a few chapters in that I felt the book really found its feet. But once it got going, I totally clicked with it, and from then on I had a blast. Like I say, it doesn't read like too many other fantasy books, and it's being marketed as almost a hybrid of fantasy and noir. I can see why, the main story is essentially an effort to uncover the source of a series of child murders. A crime mystery investigated by a drug dealing ex-soldier. The first person narrative is also full of very modern language, and it took me a while to get used to characters in a fantasy novel bumping fists, smoking roll-ups and talking about how things jibed.
Aside from the noirish elements, there is a backdrop to the story of a great war that happened in the past, and it's written in a way that clearly references the First World War, with its trenches and industrial scale slaughter. I found myself intrigued by this aspect of the novel, and even though it's really only back-story, it added an engaging additional dimension to the setting. Placing the isolated environs of Low Town into a larger cultural and temporal framework, again quite different from much of what I've read previously. I almost wished that it had been explored further.
This novel is very much in the school of dark, grim and dirty fantasy. The main character is not very nice, the child murders are, well they're child murders, and suitably unpleasant. It's violent and bloody, and the language is very adult too. Despite this, I didn't find it a depressing read. Something about the pacing and the fact that some of the key characters have great loyalty, meant that I found it wasn't unremittingly bleak.
Up to now, everything I've said has been about how unlike fantasy this fantasy actually is, but it does have what many consider to be the quintessential fantasy ingredient: magic. The magic isn't overly used, and it's not really explained in any detail, but its very clearly present. The combination of magic - and some otherworldly creatures too - together with all the other aspects, make for a thrilling and unique reading experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Straight Razor Cure. It's the first fantasy I've read in a while, and it has reignited in me a sense of excitement for what can be done with fantasy. Overall, it is a book that has a striking vision for a different type of fantasy. This is certainly an impressive début from Daniel Polansky. I also like the fact that it's only 350 or so pages, and it ends with a solid conclusion. Unlike so much of the fantasy I've encountered, I actually wished this would go on longer, and go that bit further; I would happily return to Low Town in the future. A very modern, very engaging novel for fans of fantasy and non-fantasy alike.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and utterly unique début novel. Loved it !!,
Then again Robert Jordan's wheel of time series started out like this, so slow you thought you would never get past it, and look how that turned out.
I actually really started to enjoy it towards the end.
The author goes into vast descriptive detail about the world he has created and he needed too as from the way its headed i think he could carry this on for a good 5 - 10 books easily, he certainly has the premise there with the amount of characters he introduces you too.
I wasn't impressed at times with the over the top use of expletives, and yes i understand that it was necessary to the environment the characters were in, but at times i felt it was all a bit too much.
Like most of the other reviewers i had a real issue with the lack of explanation for certain things, and a glossary of terms would of been a no brainer to me, i think that maybe that is something that the author could put in quickly before it goes to general publication, as many readers who aren't familiar with the fantasy genre might find that very confusing, i read fantasy and even i was confused at points.
This is quite an intriguing idea to cross mystery/thriller/fanasy in the same novel, i found it quite engaging but im sure for every person like me there will be people that hate it but thats what i love about books is that they are subjective.
Overall though i would really recommend that you give it a try..
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to Low Town,
Who has contacts among law enforcement officers. Because he used to be a colleague of theirs. And who, despite his better instincts, gets drawn into the investigation of a child killing. Only to find much bigger things going on. With the elite of his city being very much involved.
Our hero narrates the whole thing in the first person. And the writing doesn't skimp on expletives or violence or gore. But it doesn't make them gratuitious or use them simply for shock effect.
It may sound like a work of detective fiction. But it's actually a fantasy novel. Because our hero, the Warden, lives in a fantasy city and has street urchins and magic users and those who are very adept with a blade to content with.
It runs for three hundred and fifty six pages and has forty nine chapters, none of which are desperately long.
What could seem like a work of detective fiction in a slightly different setting does manage to stand up as fantasy though, as there are enough trappings and elements here that you wouldn't get in your ordinary thriller.
As such about sixty pages in it does start to become compelling than you might otherwise have expected it to be.
In many ways the function of this volume is to introduce the reader to this world, and it does a good job of that. Creating a city that is part of a bigger setting and has some interesting things going on.
Whilst it doesn't manage to quite maintain the pace throughout, it is very readable and the prose is pretty good and clear. And there are a few decent plot reveals towards the end.
So whilst it's not a masterpiece, it's a very promising debut. It manages to be pretty much self contained but leave the door open for further stories of the characters and setting. I shall be back to read them should those come along.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent fantasy debut novel.,
My only fantasy-based yardstick by which to judge this book is Jim Butcher`s Harry Dresden series; Low Town's only resemblance to that lies with it being a detective story in a fantasy-world setting. Polansky`s creation possesses no magical skills - or a name other than " Warden" for that matter - his forte lies with his wits and the use of bladed weapons. The cityscape is far removed from any contemporary world reference, coming across perhaps as some parallel 17th century world. Grafted onto this are the trappings of a hard-boiled detective story. There is a suitably twisted plot-line with some snappy - and very modern - dialogue (I could suggest you read all the bad guys with English accents and all the good with American, but I won't). The character list is one of hoods, heavies, ruthless law-enforcers and a dissolute elite; not far removed from Raymond Chandler in spirit with its first person narrative - as another reviewer has noted - but "Warden" is no Philip Marlowe; he's a drug dealer with a liking for his own product and no real sense of chivalry. As the plot unfolds, elements of his back-story are related in flashback and this also helps broaden out the world view - a devastating plague, a global conflict with trench-based warfare, his encounter with some sinister, magic-based black-ops department and his previous employment in the thuggish, secretive agency that passes as a police force. The uneasy peace-time melting-pot of different races in Low Town is intriguing and the characters are as finely drawn as the graphic novel I can see in my mind's eye. It isn't stated anywhere, but this reads very much like the first novel in a series to me; too much has been invested by the author in its development for it not to have the sequel it - and we - deserve.
Regardless of genre, this is an entertaining, literate piece of writing and an excellent debut novel; the mix of genres works well and I enjoyed it enormously.
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost the perfect book for me...,
This review is from: Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure: A Low Town Novel (Low Town 1) (Paperback)Thank you to the author/publisher for the review copy.
Here, the criminal is king. The streets are filled with the screeching of fish hags, the cries of swindled merchants, the inviting murmurs of working girls. Here, people can disappear, and the lacklustre efforts of the guard ensure they are never found.
Warden is an ex-soldier who has seen the worst men have to offer; now a narcotics dealer with a rich, bloody past and a way of inviting danger.
Yep this one was definitely perfect reading for me. It managed to be everything I love all in one story - a crime novel, a thriller, a modern and dark fantasy tale, rich in loveable hateable characters with some ironic humour and a dash of magic. Sign me up for the rest of the "Low Town" books right here and now..
Our protagonist Warden is a definitive anti-hero, with his drug dealing (and partaking of) habits and his distinct lack of interest in any problems that do not directly affect him. Until that is, a child goes missing and he stumbles over the discarded body. Evil is afoot and Warden is not going to let it fester...
I adore the world these characters inhabit - Mr Polansky writes with a wry eye towards class systems - His description of the nobility from Warden's point of view made me giggle wildly and there is a lot of ironic humour to be found here - which is a perfect foil for the more horrific and violent moments of this novel which are dark indeed and also extremely compelling.
The story is ever fascinating, it is never clear who is going to win any given battle and it could almost be termed classic "noir" except that Philip Marlowe never had to deal with creatures from a darker realm or the possible re-emergence of a deadly plague - both things that Warden faces with his particularly indomitable "what will be will be" style. His "sidekicks" often roll their eyes at him, Adolphus ( a character I was particularly fond of) puts up with a lot as does Wren, Warden's newly found apprentice. Well. Kind of. Its all beautifully written, engaging and intriguing storytelling.
Definitely highly recommended. I can't wait to read more!
Happy Reading Folks!
5.0 out of 5 stars In my top 10!,
This review is from: Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure: A Low Town Novel (Low Town 1) (Paperback)What an excellent book! It is such a shame the US publisher dropped this series. I rank this as one of the best books I’ve read, right on par with The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence. Low Town (a.k.a. The Straight Razor Cure) is a masterpiece of dark fantasy and noir mixed together. I’m new to noir and from this experience, I have to say I love it.
Warning: Slight Spoilers
Magic is to fantasy as carbon is to life. Low Town’s magical elements are mysterious to the reader and while they are an important aspect, they don’t take center stage of the story like you’ll find in a Sanderson novel. The main character (our detective per se) has no skill with “the art”. Instead he depends on his intellect and wit, and when those fail – his blade, to evade his own murder and solve the horrific crimes plaguing the slums. He is hounded by various organizations, both criminal and lawful. His quest: to clear his name with his former employers (the special ops section of a dangerous detective agency in employ with the crown) by solving the case of murdered children in Low Town.
Meanwhile a plague threatens to return after years of absence due to the failing health of the sorcerer who maintains the wards holding it at bay. His apprentice, a young girl that our main character rescued as a youth, seeks to take up the mantle of protecting the city after her master’s fast approaching death. She aids the main character in what small ways she can, but she isn’t nearly as powerful as her master was.
The story grabs you on the first page. The pace propels you from chapter to chapter. The excitement and mystery keeps you guessing and you may have ideas, but you never know which way things are going to go next.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The fact of the matter is that most people do exactly that. Proof couldn’t be more evident than in this example. Take a look and make your own conclusions as to why the book fares better in the UK than here in the US and why subsequently the US publisher dropped this series for lack of sales (at least that is what I’ve read on other blogs). If you want to read books 2 and 3, you’ll have to import copies from the UK for now – a high cost yes, but I am sure it will be worth it. The audible format is highly recommended for Low Town as well.
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Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure: A Low Town Novel (Low Town 1) by Daniel Polansky (Paperback - 24 May 2012)