THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY
Author: Luke Arnold
Publisher: Orbit, 2020
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Back Cover Blurb
Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential.
3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal—I’m human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help.
What I Thought
The Last Smile in Sunder City is a dark urban fantasy and the first book in a planned series, the Fetch Phillips Archives. All of which promise a great deal more in depth world building and character development. And, even for a debut, Arnold packs it in—for a world that once ran on magic nothing will ever be the same. Every conceivable magical creature, and there are some that even defy imagination, the loss of magic has been devastating. Some died instantly, age catching up with them, while others linger, clinging to the vestiges of their past lives, caught in something of a twilight world.
Enter Fetch Phillips, a man for hire, and a habitual drunk, with a mysterious past that haunts him.
At the beginning, Fetch is hired to find a missing professor, an ageing vampire, who has suddenly vanished. And, as he begins to investigate this seemingly benign case of a missing person, we’re treated to a great deal of delicious world building, intriguing back story, and the current lay of the land. Including introductions to some of what, I assume, will be supporting characters in subsequent instalments to come.
Arnold unravels the story through two timelines, the first of which focuses in on Fetch locating the missing professor. And, the more he stumbles around Sunder City hoping to come across clues, the more we get to know Fetch, the city, and those who are left clinging to life. Told in the first person POV—in an almost noir detective style—Fetch Phillips is imbued with a great deal of disparaging observational wit.
What’s also obvious from the get go is, Fetch Phillips is a broken man.
Just how he got there is explained in the second thread, set in the past—in flashback—giving us glimpses of what led up to his participation in the loss of magic—and the tragic events that brought about the downfall of magical creatures and, of course, Fetch Phillips himself.
Full of intriguing world building, and a number of interesting characters, The Last Smile in Sunder City is a thoroughly engrossing read. And while there is little to no action, that in and of itself is not a bad thing. I only noticed near the end when we did have a flurry of activity, that little had gone on beforehand. But, going out in a blaze of glory or is that, gore? Fetch learns the hard way what happens when hope rears its ugly head and offers a chance at redemption.
Not to spoil things, Fetch finds his man, or is that, vampire, and the truth about the young woman the professor was tutoring. And thus, we know from events set in motion, that there is a lot more yet to come, both from the past and in the future.
My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen a little more depth to the supporting characters. But, as it is, I’m sure we’re going to get more as the series progresses. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Fetch Phillips, Sunder City, and the denizens of this lost world.