Series: Low Town #0.5
Publisher: Self Published (December 22, 2014)
Length: 28 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
After enjoying The Builders, I was eager to read something else from Daniel Polansky, and his Low Town series kept being recommended to me. But I held off giving it a try. Mainly, because I wasn’t sure if it was for me. Fantasy underworld meets hard-boiled detective tale was intriguing, but I’d burned out on Steven Brust’s fairyland meets mobster story Vlad Taltos series many years ago.
Well, eventually, I broke down and gave this Low Town short story a go. (I mean, a .99 cent read is hard to turn down.) Loved ever minute of it. Wish I had tried it ages ago. Polansky really pulled me in with his sarcastic, cunning, and badass Warden and the ghetto part of town he basically runs through reputation and clever use of persuasion and force.
To set thigns up, this short story is a straightforward mob war concoction, where a rival gang is attempting to move in on the Warden’s part of town, take over his cut of the drug trade, and eventually put him in the ground. Naturally, this “consortium” tries to do it on the lowdown, but the thing is the Warden knows exactly what is going on and very methodically begins to put a scheme into effect which will ride him of his enemies without him having to do a whole hell of a lot.
Besides being one sweet fantasy crime piece, what really sold me on this story was Polansky’s sparse yet crisp writing; his very intimate first person narration taking me right into the head of his tough-as-nails lead. I mean, who can resist a guy who introduces himself like this:
People call me the Warden. People call me a lot of things, but the Warden is the only one you could say inside a church.
And the Warden’s description of Low Town, what it is all about, and his role in it was equally as compelling.
To get to Low Town you shuffle out of the gates of the palace and head south, over the Andel, down through Brennock and it’s iron foundries and stink, stopping just before you reach the docks. If you come, though, you might want to make sure you aren’t dressed too well, or wearing any jewelry, or have much money on you. And you might want to carry a knife, or a sword, or walk along in the company of a handful of men so equipped, or maybe more than a handful. Because the locals are unfriendly, unfriendly by the standards of an unfriendly city in an unfriendly world, and the local guard know better than to waste their time trying to police the place, like a doctor knows better than to bandage a corpse.
One more thing about Low Town—the most important thing, really, though you’d be shocked at how many of these argent-a-head thugs forget—it’s mine. The broken cobblestones and the graffitied walls and the shit-swollen canals, the silk-shirted pimps and the half-hard razor boys and the wyrm dealers and the crooked guards and even those few poor souls mad or foolish enough to try and eke out an honest living.
I can’t express why the Warden and Low Town clicked for me, but it did. The criminal underworld. The intrigue. The violence. The smartass remarks. It all just worked for me. And it caused me to finally pick up the novel Low Town and read it. Unsurprisingly, I loved the book even more than this short story. So I’d highly recommend A Drink Before We Die to all Polansky fans, Low Town lovers, or people who wonder if they might fit into either of those categories.