Thursday, August 20, 2020

Review: The Last Smile in Sunder City



Last Smile in Sunder City is the debut novel of Australian actor Luke Arnold. It's an urban fantasy about a detective who helps people for the right price. Except for one thing: he doesn't work for humans.

The Plot:

Fetch Philips is a detective who refuses to work for humans, despite being a human himself. He feels that humans took far too much from the magical citizens of the world and he owes them his help. 
Living in a post-war, post-magic society when so many of its citizens were magic before leads to humans being despised at best. 

When Fetch is asked to find a missing vampire who teaches at a local school for those who suffered the most after the war to end magic he finds himself feeling obligated to help. He doesn't particularly want to take the job but considering there's not much else for him to do he endeavours to find the missing teacher, and along the way realises there are connections to other missing people. 

The Writing:

I've seen some complaints in other reviews that the plot is slow and the writing is over done but honestly I don't see that at all. This is the first book in a series and has a lot of world building to do in order to set up for the rest of the series. I found the flashback scenes particularly engrossing. Fetch's character development is done in such a way that he has already become the character we see on the page but the flashbacks show us how he got there and why he made the choices he did. 

I am genuinely surprised this is a debut book, Luke Arnold's writing feels experienced and full of depth. His characters are well rounded and full of life and his ability to paint settings with words is phenomenal. I felt like I was in some of the settings as I was reading about them and I found myself desperate to know more about Fetch's life before the war that ended magic. 

The Characters:

As I said, Fetch Philips is a well rounded character with depth and history. The other characters who played more minor roles felt a little rushed and a bit flat in places, however I think this was an intentional move on the author's part as it compelled the reader to empathise with Fetch even when you find out he's not exactly what he seems. It's been a while since I read The Last Smile in Sunder City and if I'm being entirely honest I cannot name a single other character, I have vague recollections of the love interest but the names have not stayed with me. Her character arc has stayed with me though and that to me is much more telling of Luke Arnold's ability to paint a vivid story even if the characters are a little dull in places. 

The Atmosphere:

This is where Arnold's writing really comes alive. The setting of Sunder City felt very real even if it is post-war, almost post-apocalyptic and obviously I have no experience living in a setting like that. To me, the way the city is described, and the way the school and other municipal buildings are written add so much to the story and create a real sense of living in a city after a major event. 

Final thoughts:

I read The Last Smile in Sunder City in May, the sequel comes out this September and I've been waiting impatiently ever since I closed the last page of Sunder City. As soon as I finished this book I pre-ordered the sequel and I think that tells you a lot about how much I enjoyed this book. Luke Arnold is an author to watch, he has so much potential to create a large scale urban fantasy series in the same vein as Jim Butcher or Richard Kadrey. I highly recommend The Last Smile in Sunder City. 

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