A former soldier turned PI tries to help the fantasy creatures whose lives he ruined in a world that’s lost its magic in a compelling debut fantasy by Black Sails actor Luke Arnold. 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. Walk the streets of Sunder City and meet Fetch, his magical clients, and a darkly imagined world perfect for readers of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.
Thanks to Libro.fm, Hachette Audio, and the author for an advance listening copy of The Last Smile in Sunder City (The Fetch Phillips Archives #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ALC did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
The Last Smile in Sunder City is a splendid debut; one that is a breath of stale air, grit, and blood in a city where the magic is all gone and the drinks can’t come quick enough. What we end up with is an entertaining urban fantasy romp through crowded streets, empty taverns, and dark alleyways alongside a drunken, cynical PI for hire who is attempting to rectify his past mistakes. Arnold proves his chops with striking prose and impressive world-building; a world that I definitely am craving more of.
As many of you probably already know, Arnold is a part of the 2020 New Voices campaign that the publisher has put together. Orbit started this last year with authors like Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Evan Winter, among several others, and I believe it is one of the best marketing tools to use for pushing out debut authors and those new to the imprint, especially for those outside of the book community. I’m sure you are also aware that Luke played Long John Silver in the STARZ TV series ‘Black Sails’. It is a series that I began watching in Season 1, moved, and didn’t pick back up, but is one that I will more than likely begin binging very soon after having read his debut.
While TLSiSC won’t wow you with huge battles, intense magic systems, or massive street brawls (because let’s be honest, there aren’t any), the mystery surrounding our protagonist and Sunder City, the array of secondary characters who flow in and out of the story-line, and the overall world-building will keep you entertained as you attempt to unravel the whodunit. One thing I can say: you will more than likely not be a fan of Fetch because his redeemable qualities are few and far between. Yours would be too with a past like his, but at least he is trying. The author also writes the story across two different timelines, allowing you to see into Fetch’s past while also tagging along in the present. Having said that, I feel that his past could’ve been expanded upon, and maybe it will in future novels.
I’d say Arnold’s debut is a great addition to the urban fantasy genre. If you are like me and enjoyed books like The Fifth Ward: First Watch by Dale Lucas, Titanshade by Dan Stout, or maybe even Chasing Embers by James Bennett, you’ll find a ton to enjoy here. Even if you aren’t a fan of urban fantasy, there are several elements that will appeal to you.
I also want to make mention that Luke narrated his own audiobook and I thought he did a fantastic job. It is one thing to write a debut, but to also lend your voice for the first time on said book. Color me impressed. His voice, at least for the book’s sake, sounded similar to Dennis Quaid if you are into sound-a-likes. His pacing was great, and his voices were pretty spot-on (which I guess is a little easier when you are so familiar with the product). I hope he continues out the rest of the series!