Warden doesn’t want to get involved with anything that smacks of legality. Not any more. He had enough of being a Crown Agent, and now he’s happy being a drugs dealer. The problem is that children are being killed – and someone thinks he should be investigating…
Dan Polansky’s debut novel is a weird fusion of a fantasy story and a hard boiled detective thriller. Warden, the narrator, could have stepped from the pages of a Raymond Chandler story, but the milieu in which he operates has the trappings of a medieval society with a sorcerous edge.
It owes quite a lot to Terry Pratchett – even to the extent of one of the gods bearing a similar name. Imagine a nastier version of Ankh-Morpork, without the trolls and the other supernatural beings: a place where the underbelly may be nasty, but what’s on top is worse. That’s Low Town, where very few people have real redeeming features, and most get by as best they can.
The use of language is one of the book’s many strengths. Polansky brings this world to life with many well-chosen phrases, so that you get the smell and the feel of the place living with you as you read. And unpleasant as it may be at times, Low Town is somewhere you’ll want to return to soon.
Verdict: A strong debut that promises much for the future. 8/10
By Dan Polansky
Hodder & Stoughton, out now