THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY by Luke Arnold.
Orbit Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
There used to be magic in the world until humanity unwittingly put an end to that. Without the power that sustained them, the varied and ancient life forms sharing the land with humans have failed and faded. Elves grow old and crumble, trolls turn to stone, vampires can no longer sustain life with blood. A whole generation of children will never know what it was to see a dragon fly or hear a siren sing. Those who remain are but shadows of their former selves.
The Coda changed the world, irrevocably. Unsurprisingly there now exists an underlying animosity between humans and the other species they brought down from grace. Formerly great and powerful creatures face extinction and sadly there are those who would wish to speed that process along.
Fetch Phillips has a shadowy past (one he would try as hard to cover up as the tattoos that give away his involvement in the Coda) but now works as a detective for hire. As his name suggests, Fetch is good at finding things and relies on it for a living. This day brings an invitation from a non-human academy, a missing professor who happens to be a former vampire, and a new truth waiting to be uncovered. Finally Fetch has a case that could prove his chance for redemption. Or not.
Fetch Phillips is an immediately likeable character, fully aware of and happy to indulge in his flaws and follies. The story unfolds at the perfect pace for him to investigate the case and reveal the part he played in the fall of magic. He can take a beating as well as the next guy – better perhaps – and throws wit just as well as he throws punches, regardless of who stands before (or towers above) him.
Arnott writes with delightfully realistic humour in an easy tone, to deliver a brilliant debut that secures the next in the series on the ‘to read’ pile of the future. Noir wraps the melancholic remnants of magical species and a worn down detective together flawlessly in The Last Smile in Sunder City and we are left wanting more of our latest favourite detective.