Review: Low Town Book One – The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky

04 Aug

When I first heard of The Straight Razor Cure –or Low Town, as it is titled in US markets- I was immediately intrigued. The setting –a city that put me in mind of Mark Newton’s central Villjamur, which is a positive comparison- and what I knew of the book at the time practically promised a read unlike anything I’d read before.
Promised, and delivered.

Before I carry on, let me state that if you like your Fantasy cut and dried, with plenty of battles and politics and magic, then The Straight Razor Cure may not be for you. It’s not an understatement for me to say that I’ve never read anything like this novel before – it is utterly unique, as least to my reading experience.

Character-wise, the novel is filled with both the unsavoury and hopeful, the snide and brilliant, the evil and those that just manage to toe the line.

Warden, the main character and voice of the novel, is a stubborn, addicted, short tempered bastard who has –and many times, besides- made all of the wrong choices and very few of the right choices. But his path, down through the years, has led him to a place where the events that take place in the novel swirl and eddy around him, pulling him in despite every fight he puts up.

Warden is one of those guys practically every one of us knows – you know, the guy that showed so much promise and was given many opportunities, but didn’t achieve what he could have. Consequently, his voice, the story’s voice, is pretty damned hectic and unusual, more along the lines of a character you’d find in a crime novel, that dude who survives on the edges of society and survives on that edge as well as he can.

There are many other characters that populate the novel, some from Warden’s distant past –very important characters, I might add- some from his more recent past, and others that are, in many cases, balancing on that line between grubby and truly despicable. One of the characters I enjoyed the most had a definite Oriental-flavour to him, and the way he and Warden spoke to each other was absolutely awesomely entertaining, so layered that I wondered how long it took Daniel to write those interactions.

All in all, every character hit his or her stride perfectly, in my opinion, from the young street thief that Warden meets early on to a dangerous Lord to a girl that Warden rescued off the streets when he was very young himself. The characters are definitely one of the strongest aspects of the novel, and one of the most enjoyable.

What I also loved was that Daniel revealed just enough of the world the novel takes place in that you get hints and flavours and layering’s instead of a complete picture – a terrible and costly war is mentioned, and we also get glimpses of Warden during the war; the city itself barely survived another event even before the war, and the glimpses of that are hectic enough, especially as we ‘witness’ everything through Warden’s point of view. So, if you’re one of those that loves intricate and substantive worldbuilding, The Straight Razor Cure might disappoint you – the story-world is intriguing, but doesn’t bludgeon you.

This novel also doesn’t pull any punches – it’s violent and bloody, there’s plenty of swearing, and it’s definitely not a read for young adults, so parents, read this book before you pass it on to your kids. Yes, it’s a dark, often-times disturbing novel –and like I said before, not the normal kind of Fantasy novel you’re used to- but if you’re an open-minded reader who doesn’t mind boundaries being pushed, then I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy The Straight Razor Cure as much as I did. I’ll definitely be back as the series progresses – there’s enough that’s hinted at, and enough characters, to populate four or five books; there’s also the sense of a much larger story unfolding, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where Daniel takes us next, and whether Warden will emotionally survive the journey. 🙂

I give this novel a resounding 9 / 10 – it’s dark, brilliant, boundary-pushing, and unique, with incredible characters and a thought-provoking plot, and it doesn’t read like a debut at all. Daniel is definitely and assuredly a damned good writer and storyteller.

To order your copies of The Straight Razor Cure, click here for Amazon UK – it’ll be released on the 18th of August; it’ll be available in South Africa in September, so head into your closest Exclusive Books and reserve yourself a copy. In the US, where it’ll be known as Low Town, and will be released on the 16th of August, you can order yourself copies on Amazon US from this link. Also, head on over to Daniel’s website here.



Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Reviews


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3 responses to “Review: Low Town Book One – The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky

  1. Mariëtte

    August 5, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Great review 🙂 Looking forward to reading it. Am on book four of The Malazan Book of the Fallen though, so it’s unfortunately going to have to wait. Good to have you back

  2. Dave-Brendon de Burgh

    August 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Thanks! Hope you’re enjoying House of Chains – plenty of foreshadowing in that book! And Karsa rocks! 🙂 Thanks for commenting, and it’s great to be back! 🙂


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