Tag Archives: Daniel Polansky

Those Above – The Empty Throne Book One by Daniel Polansky

Hey everyone, hope you’re well. 🙂

Daniel first came to my attention with the utterly excellent The Straight Razor Cure, and even though I have yet finish that trilogy (and the accompanying tale, A Drink Before We Die)-which I blame entirely on being a writer myself- Daniel’s work stands out, and I knew that Those Above would be something special.

The novel (which is the first in a duology, and Those Below has been available for a while) takes place in a world in which humanity has been enslaved by powerful, seemingly perfect race of beings, called Those Above by their unwilling subjects. It is a world of extreme riches and extreme poverty, and those who hover in the middle are constantly fighting to keep their heads above water  – kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? 😉

These Eternals are at the very top of the food chain, in almost every sense of the word – nothing of importance happens without their input or say-so, and yet this is one of the reasons that their rule is being threatened. They are fallible and can be killed, though it doesn’t happen often; in fact, it’s happened only once, and that event led to a vicious crackdown which has reverberated down through the years, with repercussions affecting every level of society.

But folks aren’t happy with Eternal rule, and even some of the Eternals are showing a ruling-fatigue – it’s a situation ripe for revolution, and that’s what this first book focuses on through the POV’s (points of view) of three main characters.

One is a street rat, one of those living in constant poverty and assailed by crime and violence – assailed, and yet welcoming it all, because it’s where he finds his purpose and his strength.

One is the very person who managed to kill one of the Eternals – he’s struggling to find his own place and the way forward in a world which seemingly hasn’t changed, despite what he achieved; even as he’s been called on again to lead a new army.

And one is a female character, the wife of a deceased hero, who has involved herself in the deadliest of games against the Eternals and her fellow nobles. She, by the way, is one of the most epic female characters I’ve ever met – strong, independent, ruthless, intelligent, and even kind. She utterly stole the show, and I’m sure she’ll stand out for you when you meet her.

Further to the plot and events, Daniel manages to keep the focus on the above-mentioned characters (and many others) while taking the reader on a journey through this world and everything that makes it live – the various strata of society and how the rule of the Eternals affects them; the Eternals themselves and their games, beliefs, and cut-throat culture; the relationships between the characters; the history of the world and it’s peoples… Reading this book, I experienced a balance between everything that makes a book work: sometimes the world building overwhelms the characters, and sometimes the plot seems forced while the characters are shallow, but not in Those Above. Daniel is a masterful juggler – indeed, the juggling seems effortless. And I am most certainly jealous.

In short, if you’re looking for Epic Fantasy which doesn’t overwhelm, characters which shine, interesting and memorable world building and an intro to a world and plot which you haven’t encountered before, then Those Above should meet with your enthusiastic approval.

A definite 10 / 10, and I’m really looking forward to eventually reading Those Below. 🙂

To get more info about Daniel and his work, visit his website, and to order Those Above, check out the links below:

Amazon US,

Amazon UK,,


Exclusive Books (South Africa)

Until next time,


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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Reviews


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

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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