Book Review: Low Town by Daniel Polansky
December 22, 2011 5 Comments
It turned out not to be dystopian, not even post-apocalyptic. No, I’m saying it wrongly: it was actually post-apocalyptic of sorts but not in a world as we know it. In the world in the book, the plague had taken many victims years ago and life was never quite the same.
Low Town: What it is about
Low Town is the area of town where you find drugs, prostitutes, low lives, and not much else. The world is a place not unlike ours, but all technological developments are missing. So, people use swords and daggers, travel by horse-pulled coach, but do have cigarettes and all kinds of drugs.
The main character is the Warden, a man who used to be in the police force, but was fired because of misconduct. Now he lives a life as a drug dealer and addict. After he roamed the streets for years as an orphan (his parents having died of the plague) he meets the Crane, a revered person who knows magic and has been in charge of keeping the town free from the plague.
When a child is murdered and he finds the body, he is suspected of her murder and is given the option of death or finding out who the real killer is. More child murders follow and the Warden starts his enquiries.
But he has enemies in the police force who are after him, with deadly intent, and he isn’t safe on the streets. There’s also the Blade, an aristocrat with knife skills, who may be playing a foul game. The Crane is ill, and not of much help.
The Warden has only been given a week to find the murderer. Chances are he will either not manage on time, or be killed in the process.
Low Town: What I thought
I liked the setting of this book, although I didn’t quite get a good feel what it looked like. But the streets full of crooks and a cozy inn with a large, friendly innkeeper and his homely wife, it was a fun setting to read about.
The Warden isn’t exactly someone to admire: he’s a drug addict and dealer and hasn’t done anything “good” for ages. But he accepts a street boy as his errand boy – he doesn’t treat him very well to start with, but later on, they begin to form a bond. The only people he really cares about are Adolphus the innkeeper and his wife, and the Crane, who is now old and fading.
He is a very tough and resourceful man – or so he thinks: sometimes his attackers are more clever and stronger than he is, but, being the protagonist of the book, he survives every time.
I liked the story especially because of the world that was created: a medieval world with hints of modernity. There was a very, very small amount of magic, so if you’re not usually into magic, it wouldn’t really matter for this book.
Sometimes, I wasn’t quite sure why the Warden did something or on what basis he drew his conclusions. For instance, he seems to know that a particular man was responsible for the death of the (first) child, but I wasn’t convinced yet. I thought it was an option, more than a certainty. Maybe I overlooked something or maybe it just wasn’t made clear.
The book wasn’t as much of a thriller as it could have been. Although I was worried for the Warden’s life in certain instances, there wasn’t a constant feeling of anxiety. He had one week to carry out his research and find the killer, but that could have been made more of an issue. I never really knew how many days had elapsed. I could have counted them, of course, but the time factor could have been exploited better, I think.
Even with those drawbacks, I enjoyed reading the book and would love to read more of the world in the book, either from the Warden’s point of view or another character (I think the innkeeper would be interesting to know more about).
I got this book: from Adam the Roofbeamreader in a giveaway
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 342
First published: 2011