I have a confession to make: I have never read Lord of the Rings. The whole sword and sorcery thing has never appealed to me, and it’s not because I don’t like dragons, elves or sword fights, it’s because of the old ‘Forsooth, sir, you dishonour my family name and I shall have satisfaction…’ blah, blah, yawn. Warfare bores me too, as does the politics that goes with it. Now I know these are whopping generalizations of a genre I have little experience with, but what little I have experienced hasn’t done a lot to change my opinion of it. I even gave up on the TV dramatisation of A Game of Thrones for these same reasons, when everyone else kept telling me how great it was.
But I do feel a little cheated that I’m missing out on some potentially good stories due to my hair-trigger gag reflex when it comes to stilted noble-speak and tired fantasy tropes, so I’ve always got a shifty eye on the new releases in the hopes that something different will present itself and allow me to tag along on a tale without leaving puddles of puke all over the cobbled streets of some faraway land. Daniel Polansky’s The Straight Razor Cure was one such tale, and a pleasant surprise to this disgruntled and jaded fantasy reader.
As world-building goes,
escapes endless description, making its discovery organic and the pace livelier for it. The Warden is dark and complex and his dips into noble-speak are blessedly minimal and mostly tongue-in-cheek. As a lawman turned drug dealer he can walk in all circles of Low Town ’s society and as such his chameleon-like speech patterns mirror that of his immediate company. It’s a nice touch that for the most part works well, although at times there’s a clang of contemporary dialogue that just doesn’t fit at all. ‘Tossing’ a room, for instance, is straight out of CSI. Thankfully these slips are rare. Low Town
But at the heart of Polansky’s tale lies a nourish murder mystery that could only ever take place in a town as dark as Low Town, and could only ever be solved by a character as dark as the Warden, and whether or not you puritanical fantasy fans take to Polansky’s The Straight Razor Cure, I certainly did, and I may just try another.