Low Town [NOOK Book]


Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.

In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its cham­pion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads ...
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Low Town

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Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.

In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its cham­pion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs. Every day is a constant hustle to find new customers and protect his turf from low-life competition like Tancred the Harelip and Ling Chi, the enigmatic crime lord of the heathens.

The Warden’s life of drugged iniquity is shaken by his dis­covery of a murdered child down a dead-end street . . . set­ting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. As a former agent with Black House—the secret police—he knows better than anyone that murder in Low Town is an everyday thing, the kind of crime that doesn’t get investi­gated. To protect his home, he will take part in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psy­chotic head of Black House, but the truth is far darker than he imagines. In Low Town, no one can be trusted.

Daniel Polansky has crafted a thrilling novel steeped in noir sensibilities and relentless action, and set in an original world of stunning imagination, leading to a gut-wrenching, unforeseeable conclusion. Low Town is an attention-grabbing debut that will leave readers riveted . . . and hun­gry for more.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Before you enter Low Town, you should realize that you might not be alive when you leave. With its ugly rows of flophouses and brothels, this precinct sits menacingly at the outskirts of Rigus, the showcase city of the Thirteen Cities. One violent man, called the Warden, presides over its teeming outcast hoards, trusting no one, always prepared to see the worst. What he hadn't anticipated though was to find a savagely murdered child lying on a dead-end street. That one grisly discovery changes everything; the Warden and Low Town would never be the same. A debut novel worth reading.

Library Journal
Low Town is exactly as it sounds, a scummy place collecting the dregs of the Thirteen Lands and run by a former agent with Black House (the secret police) who's fallen from grace. Now he deals drugs and dispenses violence, but a child's murder gives him pause—and forces him into an uneasy game with both Black House and the underground bosses. Noir fantasy, indeed, with a reading group guide, lots of promotion to mystery, thriller, and fantasy sites, and five foreign rights sales so far.
From the Publisher
“For a first-time author, Polansky has managed to craft an assured, roaring, and rollicking hybrid, a cross-genre free-for-all that relishes its tropes while spitting out their bones. And he does it all while spinning one hell of a gripping mystery. Much like its grim, perversely charismatic antihero, Low Town stakes a narrow turf—then completely owns every inch of it.” The A.V. Club (The Onion)

“Festooned with sorcerers and demons in a pre-industrial otherworld setting, Low Town…is a fantasy-crime hybrid with serious noir chops…Gritty, cryptically funny and relentlessly inventive.” – Winnipeg Free Press

Low Town is a strong, confident debut that should go down well with readers who enjoy their fantasy on the noir side. It’s a novel you can enjoy for its atmosphere as well as its story, full as it is of well-drawn scenes from the city’s underbelly.…Low Town delivers a fast, entertaining story in less pages than it takes some major epics to get out of the realm of basic exposition. I had a blast with Low Town, and I’m definitely keeping an eye out for whatever Daniel Polansky comes up with next.”--Tor.com

“If you like noir and hard-boiled mysteries, you might want to give Low Town a chance. You’ll definitely find it darkly rewarding.” New York Journal of Books

"Polansky hits all the right notes in his intelligent first novel, a blend of dystopian fantasy and hard-boiled crime....Sharp, noir-tinged dialogue and astute insights into class struggle mark Polansky as a writer with a future." -- Publishers Weekly

"A strong debut novel with a hero who doesn’t waste time worrying about the moral implications of cutting someone’s throat." -- Kirkus

"Polansky's writing is confident and punchy from the offset. The action rips along at a brilliant pace allowing us to experience this gritty world through the eyes of a thrilling, dangerous, flawed, yet strangely endearing protagonist. This is modern, dark fantasy at its best and a debut to be envied." -- British Fantasy Society

"Quite brilliant...[Low Town] is as good a debut as I've read in along time. [It] has it all - and as the name suggests, it is sharp, steely and viciously bloody. Highly recommended." --John Berlyne, SF Revu

From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal
The protagonist of Polansky's debut, the Warden, is a former cop who deals in drugs and derision. He rules the mean streets of the city not because of great strength but because he possesses more brains than the other street thugs and has a close relationship with the city's wise magician, the Crane. When kids start disappearing, the oft-doped Warden heads deep into the underworld of corrupt cops and criminals to find out why. Sometimes this work reads like a futuristic dystopian novel—the plague only recently leveled the city's population and morality. Most of the time, however, it reads like a confused mixture of past and present, fantasy and detective mystery. There are guns and war in flashbacks. But in the novel's present, most of the fighting is done by hand, with blades and a vague magic. VERDICT Polansky has not yet mastered the trick of weaving various populations and languages into a cohesive narrative. The result is a sense of disorder and not the good kind that grows out of the postapocalyptic meaninglessness as in Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World. Elements of fantasy and pulp fiction don't mix well here, and the dialog often sounds forced. [See Prepub Alert, 2/7/11.]—Stephen Morrow, Ohio Univ., Athens
Kirkus Reviews

In Polansky's dark, moody debut novel, there's no sun, no joy, and staying alive for another day is about the only reason to rejoice; the grim setting makes for an interesting tale about a man with a past.

Warden, who grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Low Town, survived odds that would have killed lesser men. As a child, he watched his parents succumb to the Red Plague, which killed most of the adults in the city. Only a fortuitous encounter with his mentor, the Crane, saved him and the waif, Celia, whom Warden rescued from a terrible and sordid fate on the lawless, plague-ridden streets. As a very young and foolish man, Warden marched off to war and saw his men slaughtered, but he also witnessed something else, something beastly and obviously not from his world. The former law-enforcement officer turned drug dealer suspects his past could be catching up to him when innocent children begin to disappear and old comrades from his agent days exhibit a newfound interest in him. Polansky's fantasy world eschews beauty and reason: Low Town and its inhabitants take their inspiration from a combination of the Middle Ages and modern drug trafficking. The streets of Low Town are dirty, corrupt and filled with drug users, although with the grim lives they lead their habits are understandable. Warden, an antihero with no immediately apparent redeeming qualities, becomes a reluctant crusader whose capacity for violence is underestimated by both his enemies and friends alike. The author has constructed a believable alternate world, but it's a brutal one, where a short, miserable life is almost a given, and using the toilet means tossing the contents of a bedpan out of a window. He introduces a large cast of characters, while creating a plausible back story that draws them all together. The only place the tale fails is in the denouement, when the motivations of the antagonists come off as muddy and unclear.

A strong debut novel with a hero who doesn't waste time worrying about the moral implications of cutting someone's throat.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385534475
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/16/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 147,581
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

DANIEL POLANSKY is from Baltimore, Maryland. Low Town is his first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In the opening days of the Great War, on the battle- fields of Apres and Ives, I acquired the ability to abandon slumber with the flutter of an eyelid. It was a necessary adaptation, as heavy sleepers were likely to come to greeted by the sight of a Dren commando with a trench blade. It’s a vestige of my past I’d rather lose, all things considered. Rare is the situation that requires the full range of one’s perceptions, and in general the world is improved by being only dimly visible.
Case in point—my room was the sort of place best viewed half asleep or in a drunken stupor. Late autumn light filtered through my dusty window and made the interior, already only a few small steps from squalor, look still less prepossessing. Even by my standards the place was a dump, and my standards are low. A worn dresser and a chipped table set were the only furnishings that accompanied the bed, and a veneer of grime covered the floor and walls. I passed water in the bedpan and threw the waste into the alley below.
Low Town was in full stream, the streets echoing with the screech of fish hags advertising the day’s catch to porters carrying crates north into the Old City. At the market a few blocks east merchants sold underweight goods to middlemen for clipped copper, while down Light Street guttersnipes kept drawn-dagger eyes out for an unwary vendor or a blue blood too far from home. In the corners and the alleys the working boys kept up the same cries as the fish hags, though they spoke lower and charged more. Worn streetwalkers pulling the early shift waved tepid come-ons at passersby, hoping to pad their faded charms into one more day’s worth of liquor or choke. The dangerous men were mostly still asleep, their blades sheathed next to their beds. The really dangerous men had been up for hours, and their quills and ledgers were getting hard use.
I grabbed a hand mirror off the floor and held it at arm’s length. Under the best of circumstances, perfumed and manicured, I am an ugly man. A lumpen nose dripped below overlarge eyes, a mouth like a knife wound set off center. Enhancing my natural charms are an accumulation of scars that would shame a masochist, an off-color line running up my cheek from where an artillery shard had come a few inches from laying me out, the torn flesh of my left ear testifying to a street brawl where I’d taken second place.
A vial of pixie’s breath winked good morning from the worn wood of my table. I uncorked it and took a whiff. Cloyingly sweet vapors filled my nostrils, followed closely by a familiar buzzing in my ears. I shook the bottle—half empty, it had gone quick. Pulling on my shirt and boots, I grabbed my satchel from beneath the bed and walked downstairs to greet the late morn.
The Staggering Earl was quiet this time of day, and the main room was dominated by the mammoth figure behind the bar, Adolphus the grand, co-owner and publican. Despite his height—he was a full head taller than my own six feet—his casklike torso was so wide as to give the impression of corpulence, though a closer examination would reveal the balance of his bulk as muscle. Adolphus had been an ugly man before a Dren bolt claimed his left eye, but the black cloth he wore across the socket and the scar that tore down his pockmarked cheek hadn’t improved things. Between that and his slow stare he seemed a thug and a dullard, and though he was neither of those things this impression tended to keep folk civil in his presence.
He was cleaning the bar and pontificating on the injustices of the day to one of our more sober patrons. It was a popular pastime. I sidled over and took the cleanest seat.
Adolphus was too dedicated to solving the problems of the nation to allow common courtesy to intrude on his monologue, so by way of greeting he offered me a perfunctory nod. “And no doubt you’d agree with me, having seen what a failure his lordship has been as High Chancellor. Let him go back to stringing up rebels as Executor of the Throne’s Justice—at least that was a task he was fit for.”
“I’m not really sure what you’re talking about, Adolphus. Everyone knows our leaders are as wise as they are honest. Now is it too late for a plate of eggs?”
He turned his head toward the kitchen and growled, “Woman! Eggs!” Aside completed, he circled back on his captive drunk. “Five years I gave the Crown, five years and my eye.” Adolphus liked to slip his injury into casual conversation, apparently operating under the impression that it was inconspicuous. “Five years neck deep in shit and filth, five years while the bankers and nobles back home got rich on my blood. A half ochre a month ain’t much for five years of that, but it’s mine and I’ll be damned if I let ’em forget it.” He dropped his rag on the counter and pointed a sausage-sized finger at me in hopes of encouragement. “It’s your half ochre too, my friend. You’re awfully quiet for a man forgotten by his Queen and country.”
What was there to say? The High Chancellor would do what he wished, and the rantings of a one-eyed ex-pikeman were unlikely to do much to persuade him. I grunted noncommittally. Adeline, as quiet and small as her husband was the opposite, came out of the kitchen and offered me a plate with a tiny smile. I took the first and returned the second. Adolphus kept up his rambling, but I ignored him and turned to the eggs. We’d been friends for a decade and a half because I forgave him his garrulousness and he forgave me my taciturnity.
The breath was kicking in. I could feel my nerves getting steadier, my eyesight sharper. I shoveled the baked black bread into my mouth and considered the day’s work. I needed to visit my man in the customs office—he’d promised me clean passes a fortnight ago but had yet to make good. Beyond that there were the usual rounds to the distributors who bought from me, shady bartenders and small-time dealers, pimps and pushers. Come evening, I needed to stop by a party up toward Kor’s Heights—I had told Yancey the Rhymer I’d check in before his evening set.
Back on the main stage the drunk found a chance to interrupt Adolphus’s torrent of quasi-coherent civic slander. “You hear any- thing about the little one?”
The giant and I exchanged unhappy glances. “The hoax are useless,” Adolphus said, and went back to cleaning. Three days earlier the child of a dockworker had gone missing from an alley outside her house. Since then “Little Tara” had become something of a cause célèbre for the people of Low Town. The fishermen’s guild had put out a reward, the Church of Prachetas had offered a service in her honor, even the guard had set aside their lethargy for a few hours to bang on doors and look down wells. Nothing had been found, and seventy-two hours was a long time for a child to stay lost in the most crowded square mile in the Empire. Sakra willing, the girl was fine, but I wouldn’t bet my unpaid half ochre on it.
The reminder of the child provoked the minor miracle of shut- ting Adolphus’s mouth. I finished my breakfast in silence, then pushed my plate aside and rose to my feet. “Hold any messages—I’ll be back after dark.”
Adolphus waved me out.
I exited into the chaos of Low Town at midday and began my walk east toward the docks. Leaning against the wall a block past the Earl, rolling a cigarette and glowering, I spotted all five and a half feet of Kid Mac, pimp and bravo extraordinaire. His dark eyes stared out over faded dueling scars, and as always his clothes were uniformly perfect, from the wide brim of his hat to the silver handle of his rapier. He strung himself up against the bricks with an expression that combined the threat of violence with a rather profound indolence.
In the years since he had come to the neighborhood, Mac had managed to carve out a small territory by virtue of his skill with a blade and the unreserved dedication of his whores, who, to a woman, were as enamored of him as a mother is her firstborn. I often thought that Mac had the easiest job in Low Town, seeming to consist mostly of ensuring that his streetwalkers didn’t kill one another in competition for his attentions, but you wouldn’t know it from the scowl etched across his face. We’d been friendly ever since he’d set up shop, passing each other information and the occasional favor.
“Warden.” He offered me his cigarette.
I lit it with a match from my belt. “How’re the girls?”
He shook some tobacco from his pouch and started on another smoke. “That lost child has them worked up worse than a clutch of hens. Red Annie kept everyone up half the night weeping, till Euphemia went after her with a switch.”
“They’re a sensitive bunch.” I reached into my purse and surreptitiously handed him his shipment. “Any word on Eddie the Quim?” I asked, referring to a rival of his who had been chased out of Low Town earlier in the week.
“He works a stone’s throw from headquarters and doesn’t think he needs to pay off the hoax? Eddie’s too stupid to live. He won’t see the other side of winter—I’d go an argent on it.” Mac finished rolling his cigarette with one hand and slipped the package into his back pocket with the other.
“I wouldn’t take it,” I said.
Mac tucked the tab loosely into his sneer. We watched the ebb of traffic from our post. “You get those passes yet?” he asked.
“Going to see my man today. Should have something for you soon.”
He grunted what might have been assent and I turned to leave. “You oughta know that Harelip’s boys have been peddling east of the canal.” He took a drag and exhaled perfect circles of smoke, one following the other into the clement sky. “The girls have seen his crew off and on for the last week or so.”
“I heard. Stay slick, Mac.”
He went back to looking menacing.
I spent the rest of the afternoon dropping off product and running errands. My customs officer finally came through with the passes, though at the rate his addiction to pixie’s breath was progressing, it might well be the last favor he’d be able to do for me.
It was early evening by the time I was finished, and I stopped off at my favorite street stand for a pot of beef in chili sauce. I still needed to see Yancey before his set—he was performing for some toffee-nosed aristocrats near the Old City, and it would be a walk. I was cutting through an alleyway to save time when I saw something that clipped my progress so abruptly that I nearly toppled over.
The Rhymer would have to wait. Ahead of me was the body of a child, contorted horribly and wrapped in a sheet soaked through with blood.
It seemed I had found Little Tara.
I tossed my dinner into a sewer grate. Suddenly I didn’t have much of an appetite.
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Interviews & Essays

An interview with Daniel Polansky,author of Low Town, coming to your town this summer...be prepared. With additional bonus content: Extra vocabulary reference to the unusual words and phrases used in Low Town.

Q: Low Town takes several noir elements—a disgraced anti-hero detective, a shadowy underworld rife with thugs and drugs, and a horrific murder that drives the plot—and arranges them in a fantasy/sci-fi setting. The result is a wholly unique mystery/thriller. Is it accurate to describe Low Town as "Tarantino meets Tolkien"?
A: It's not exactly how I think of it, but it's certainly flattering. In my mind it's more Dan Brown meets the Old Testament.

Q: "Low Town" refers to a poor, drug and crime ridden district of a major city in not only a foreign land but an alternate world/universe, that is populated by a diverse and colorful array of people and cultures. Were these inventions informed by people and places in the real world?
A: In terms of the broader world, I read a lot of history so most of it is grounded in that. I always tried to keep in mind that however alien the world of Low Town may be, the characters are all human, affected by the same fundamental drives—greed, guilt, loyalty, bigotry etc.—as we are. In terms of the characters and situations and so on, you do your best to take from your own experiences, though obviously, I've never knifed anyone.

Q: Your hometown is Baltimore, which has seen its share of crime and inner city turmoil. Did life in Charm City shape your fiction writing?
A: I have no idea what you are talking about. Inner city turmoil? Baltimore is an edenic paradise, Plato's Athens but without all the pederasty. Where are you getting this misinformation?

Q: The principles of good versus evil are murky in noir fiction, and Low Town is characteristic of the genre. Are the gray areas of character easier to portray than stark black and white?
A: There's not really a clear good/evil axis to most of our decisions. People muddle through as best they can—if you are lucky enough to be in a situation where your basic needs are met, you can more easily spend energy thinking about your neighbor's. Should society descend into anarchy, on the other hand, it all becomes more of a zero sum game. All that is to say I don't know what a 'stark black or white' character would look like, so I guess in that sense it's easier to write people with more mixed motivations.

Q: Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops...and sorcery. Where did the idea for Low Town come from?
A: Honestly I sat down to write something a little more in line with the typical fantasy norms, but as it turns out I hate elves so I realized I needed to do something different. I guess I liked the idea of introducing a faster pace to a genre that tends to bloat a little, and Low Town seemed like one way to do it.

Q: What kind of research and preparation went into crafting Low Town? Which other fantasy/sci-fi authors influenced you, and do you have a favorite?
A: I wear my influences pretty heavy on my sleeve, Chandler and Hammett in particular. As far as fantasy goes, Gene Wolfe is a giant, deserved of far more regard than he gets. George RR Martin is probably the only person who ever wrote a good high fantasy book, cruel though it was to strand us mid-series.

Q: What do you think the main character, the Warden, would have become if the "Crane" hadn't rescued him from life on the streets—where he ultimately returned on his own terms?
A: I'm not sure that I think of the Warden as having been saved by the Crane exactly, or having returned to the streets on his own terms. For better or for worse, I think of the Warden as fundamentally a pretty self-made man.

Q: How did you make the journey from earning a philosophy degree to becoming a novelist at the ripe old age of 25?
A: Well I'm 26 actually, but I guess that doesn't change the question. I wish I had a better story for you, but my post-college history is pretty dull. I lived in China for a while, I went broke and came back to the US, I got a job, I wrote the first draft of Low Town, I quit my job, I went traveling again, I got an agent, I went broke and came back to the US, some gentleman at Random House drank too much at lunch one morning and gave me some money, and now I'm traveling again.

Q: Finally, have you sampled pixie's breath and/or dreamvine?
A: Are you a cop? Because, honestly, that reads like the kind of question a cop would ask. If you're a cop you have to tell me, or it's entrapment.

Bonus content: Extra vocabulary reference to the unusual words and phrases used in Low Town.

New to Low Town, huh? Easy to tell—Better lose those wide eyes before they get closed permanent. There's lots of folk round here wouldn't mind filling their purse with whatever you got in yours, and most of them ain't shy about rifling a corpse. Course, you stand a fellow a drink, and I might tip you to the local gossip.

Maybe this will keep you alive a while longer.

The Bite
Sinks its teeth into you after that first pipe of wyrm, whispers sweet words in your ear, rots your teeth and turns your soul.
See Also: Your Firstborn Son, Your Last Drop of Blood

Black House
Don't see many agents in Low Town—we ain't important enough for the Crown to bother with. But stick a blade in some rich boy from Kor's Heights, or make trouble for a person that matters, and you can expect a visit from a squad of jackboots in ice gray dusters. After that—well, I wouldn't be expecting to expect anything else, if you catch the drift.

Breakfast for the Eels
Is what you'll be if Ling Chi gets to knowing your name—so keep your head down, and don't run no cons down Kirentown way.

See The Bite

One-tenth of an argent, and while we're on the subject, could you spare one for an old hand, down on his luck?
See Also: Argent, Ochre

I don't touch the stuff myself—unless you've got some, in which case I suggest we adjourn to the alley and roll ourselves up something sweet and colorful.

The Drone
The solid-gold buzz you get when that shot of pixie's breath swells through your nostrils, and ain't you a handsome fellow, and don't you just carry the world in your back pocket?

The Staggering Earl
Nice bar, ain't it? The giant with one eye and arms the size of your legs, that's Adolphus—don't let his size fool you none, he's a sweetheart. I mean he'll break you in two if you get uppity, but he's an all right sort otherwise. It's that fellow at the back table you gotta worry about. But don't look too long—the Warden's an unpredictable sort, and he takes offense easily, as many a dead man could attest.
See Also: The Warden

The Freeze
See Black House

Friendly Folk
The Islanders, quick with a joke or a song. Best sailors in the Thirteen Lands, hence the best smugglers. Every one of 'em's got a friend or a cousin in a foreign port, apt to help them clear customs without no trouble.

The Ground You Stand On, The Air You Breath
Is what the Rouenders claim ownership of—slick white boys looking down their long noses at anyone who can't count their name back five centuries. Don't let the manners fool you, they'd cut your throat over a clipped copper. They been losing territory to the Tarasaighn and the Kirens these last years, but they ain't ones to cross, not if you want to stay on the right side of hell.

The Great War
Is the reason I been hobbling around on that wooden leg these last ten years. But hell, I got five copper a month and the thanks of a grateful nation, and ain't that worth a few pounds of flesh?

The Hoax
I take it you've met the brave soldiers of the city watch. Not exactly the freeze—course, you start making any bank, you'd best kick something up their way. They're apt to get a hell of a lot more competent at their job if they think they ain't getting their slice.
See Also: Black House

The Ice
See Black House

Kor's Heights
Where the noblefolk build their mansions off our sweat and blood. Ain't no safer than Low Town, but the air is a lot cleaner.

The Kiren
Now I ain't no racist or nothing, but the Heretics, I got no use for 'em. Taking jobs ought by right be ours, running down the neighborhood, looking at our women. The Kiren got the best choke, cheap whores, and cheaper muscle.

Low Town
Where it all goes down, brother—the blackened, beating heart of the Empire.

You ever lucky enough to see a solid gold piece, brother, you make sure to remember your old pals, and the good they done did you.
See Also: Copper, Argent

The Old Man
Best not speak so loud, child—not with strange ears a listening.
See Also: Black House, She That Waits Behind All Things

Open Lesions Running the Inside of Your Throat
Are the signs of the Red Fever, and you get any you stay the fuck away from me. The plague killed half the city thirty years ago, and would have done for the rest if the Blue Crane weren't protecting us.

The Price of a Man's Life
Ten Argent make one ochre, and two rung together in the right ears will get you a sharp knife and a man to wield it.
See Also: Copper, Ochre

Yeah, yeah, the jewel in the Crown, the greatest city in the Thirteen Lands. Ain't all honey and rosewater kid, I don't care what you heard in the provinces. But you'll figure it out yourself, soon enough.
See Also: Kor's Heights, Low Town

Sakra the Firstborn
I'm as religious at the next man, I suppose—but the Oathkeeper ain't much in witness here in Low Town. Leastways, I wouldn't count on him to have your back.
See Also: She That Waits Behind All Things

She That Waits Behind All Things
You'll meet her soon enough. Sooner than you'd like, anyway.

The Swampdwellers
Spend your childhood hacking your livelihood out of the bogs and see how you come out. The Tarasaighn run most of the narcotics trade and they make the best killers—hollow-eyed men who'd leave a knife in you and walk home whistling.

The Void
There ain't enough in the world for you to be afraid of, you gotta go asking after children's stories? I got a charm I could sell you, keeps bogeys out of your bedroom closet. A steal at five copper!

The Warden
Not a friendly man, but he's reasonable, so long as he ain't been dipping into his stash. He's who you'll be speaking to if you want to make a crooked coin anywhere in Low Town.
See Also: The Staggering Earl, Low Town

Your Firstborn Son, Your Last Drop of Blood What you'll trade for a stem of choke once the bite gets on you, that and anything else you got.
See Also: The Bite

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Surprising Book

    I'd read positive reviews before purchasing this novel but was certain I'd made an error when learning the author's history. I was pleasantly surprised as the story unfolded with a darker edge of fantasy and fascinating characters, never leaving me questioning the general premise. The language was far more sophisticated than I expected and humor helped to offset the sometimes violent, gothic subject matter. I would definitely recommend Low Town and personally look forward to Polansky's future work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    Different and wonderful!

    I really enjoyed this book! If you're looking for a gritty, different kind of fantasy novel, than this book is for you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    great book

    Loved it. Well written and unique.

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  • Posted January 15, 2013

    Fantasy for fantasy haters. Fantasy writers have basically been

    Fantasy for fantasy haters. Fantasy writers have basically been ripping of Tolkien (and now Rowling) for years, but Polansky gives us something completely different. Instead of the same old epic quest for some silly object or to unite the kingdoms, Low Town keeps its focus on a handful of characters in one slum. This allows us to really know the warden and his domain. I also like that the Warden is not entirely likeable. I'm sick of fantasy characters that read like they were rolled up by a 14 year old and written onto a DnD character sheet. This is almost a new sub-genre. Let's call it Low Fantasy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Dark Night of the Soul Stuff

    Dark without needless gore Most of the violence is "Off stage"

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  • Posted March 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Fantasy as a genre is being mixed with all sorts of other elemen

    Fantasy as a genre is being mixed with all sorts of other elements these days, so it was inevitable that noir would have its chance as well. Remember noir has already been mixed with steampunk, sci-fi and even comic books. Luckily, my first encounter with fantasy noir or noir fantasy (whichever way you think it’s best described) is Low Town by Daniel Polanksy. This book alone epitomizes what makes each genre great.

    Low Town, published by Doubleday, is the first book by Daniel Polansky and an excellent first outing – one that will draw you back for more. And why? Because Polansky has created an awesome world full of compelling history and elements that leaves you wanting to see more, after all it’s called Low Town and thus takes place in the aforementioned Low Town. Polansky has done so simply by combining those aspects, tropes if you will, which define noir and placing them in a secondary world.

    But he does so masterfully by including all those elements and aspects you want in both your noir and fantasy. Angry, nasty, drug addled protagonist with a violent past and an even more violent day to day life – check. Snobbish but dangerous and hedonistic high society – check. Cheap pimps, two-timing whores and crime bosses – check. Don’t forget unforgiving violence, crime and the chance at redemption, all of which just covers the noir. For fantasy you have magic, sorcerers, foreign dangerous beings, talking statues and swords.

    It makes for a heady mix of action, mystery and violence through which the protagonist, a man only known as the Warden, must navigate. And it’s one where the body count mounts as a result of both Daniel Polansky’s willingness to employ what he smartly calls “the straight razor cure” and the actions of all the characters. Everything has an consequence and as such the story of Low Town and the Warden leaves everything changed at the end of the book. Yet, never to such a degree as to imply that the order of the universe has been changed – for better or worse the world continues.

    Part of what makes the world of Low Town so compelling, aside from a surly protagonist with a drug problem who goes about the world in a practical manner, is the fact that it’s set in a time period reminiscent of the industrial revolution. Meaning there is artillery, not just magical, but explosives resulting in explosions, though no guns resulting in battles that involve swords and knives. The balance of technology, between the old and the new, the mechanical and the mundane makes for an excellent world that is both compelling and intriguing. That’s not even mentioning the other parts of the world that Polansky has so delicately placed without spoiling their possisbilities – hell there’s not even a map so everything is truly left to your imagination.

    No review would be complete without an in-depth look at the Warden. He is a man with a past, one that in the best of noir’s wisdom haunts him but also provides him with ample opportunity to go about his way. The best feature I found, of the Warden’s, is that he is more than capable. He’s a man that can do much but is always cognizant of his weaknesses and inabilities particularly in comparison to others and when it comes to fights. It’s his vast library of skills which has enabled him to survive and at times thrive in Low Town and ultimately his knowledge that is the deciding factor in any event.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2012

    Excellent book

    I can't wait to read other books by this author. Hard to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    dark noir with a medival twist

    the hero is not a nice guy...but his line he will not cross means he is stuck playing detective (his old job) one last time. very dark - but fun

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  • Posted October 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Action packed

    This was a very action packed, page turning book from the very first pages until the very end and it kept me engaged in the sinister actions that were plaguing Low Town. I love a good detailed mystery and I did not know what to expect from Low Town and I was pleasantly surprised in this book. Polansky did an excellent job in the imaginery of the characters and the mixture of the elements added lots of drama. An ex-cop turned drug dealer, sorcerers, monsters, children, murders and lords all clashed in the 341 pages of Polansky's first novel and tried to make their mark in Low Town. Polansky choices for words at times was over the top for me but I felt a part of the action and could feel the drama unfolding at my feet. Polansky didn't forget anything as he describes the events but he did not overdo the details and bore me. The ending left me wondering if there could be a series in the making. What will happen in Low Town, this can't be the end. I think Polansky has a gift for writing and look forward to other books to follow. I won this book as a free giveaway on Goodreads for a honest review.

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  • Posted September 6, 2011

    Unique and dark mystery

    For the last couple of years Warden has made a life for himself among the criminals and whores of Low Town. Everything changes for him when he srumbles upon the body of a murdered young woman. Unable to shake the dead girl from his thoughts, Warden decides to solve her murder. A Former detective, Warden puts his old yet familiar skills to the test once more despite thinking he never would. Although clearly an anti-hero and sarcastic, you know Warden is still a god guy at heart. This is a dark and gritty mystery with a splash of humor. The twist? Add magic into the equation. The characters are not flat and the pacing is just right. Give it a shot.

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a gritty postapocalyptic investigative noir

    Of the Thirteen Cities, Rigus is by far the grandest. However, while that magnificent city shines, a suburb Low Town is the diametrically opposite with violent crime and rampant drug addiction and prostitution on every block corner of the rundown precinct.

    Low Town is run with an iron fist by the distrusting Warden. He was once a hero during the Great War only a few years ago and was a member of the Black House police before he was disgraced and sent into exile. An addict Warden has even nastier rivals that he keeps at bay because he expects the worst in people. The Warden has one ally of sorts in Crane the magician. When kids in his precinct disappear, the Warden wants to ignore them. However, the first corpse he discovers alarms him and forces him to ally with his former law enforcement compatriots the Black House to insure a proper investigation occurs.

    Although somewhat difficult to delineate the recent past with the present, Low Town is a gritty postapocalyptic investigative noir starring a vicious antihero. The dystopian story line is at it best during the inquiry that besides providing a good murder mystery enables readers to picture the slummy precinct and understand the helplessness of the impoverished. This is an engaging first tale as Daniel Polansky paints a draconian future.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted July 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Gritty fantasy

    When I first started reading Low Town, I was taken by surprise when I realized fantasy was mixed in to the story. The only way I can describe the beginning was that I felt sort of disoriented. I had trouble finding a connection to the story. This was probably because I didn't go into the book with a totally open mind. I kept reading & once I opened my mind, I fell completely into Low Town. No time or place really, your imagination is allowed to create whatever you want it to be. Every reader will have a different picture of when & where this took place. Low Town is a gritty, crime ridden town that was once hit with the plague. Mix that with sorcerer's and law enforcement that runs like an underworld military team and you have a base for an incredible story. There are few slow spots and the author does a great job of keeping you wanting more. I did, however, see the ending coming. I had the mystery part of the story guessed early on but that didn't ruin anything at all for me. I wasn't disappointed at all, great book! As a side note, I discovered from the author's Facebook page that this will be a series. Can't wait to read more!

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  • Posted June 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing book - HIGHLY recommended!

    In "Low Town," Daniel Polansky has done something few authors have done - taken a noir mystery thriller and placed it in a fantasy world. I've only seen one other author make use of this type of story-telling idea, and have no idea why, because it is really a fabulous idea that allows a much broader range of ideas to be expressed. Low Town has it all - drugs, vice, violence - and sorcery.

    Known as The Warden, the main character (a true anti-hero if I ever met one) has run Low Town's drug trade by himself for the five years since he was pushed out of Black House (the secret police), where he had worked since after the Dren wars. However, his established routine is shaken up by the disappearance and then murder of a young girl - ending up in the limelight after finding her body, he is forced to ally himself with Black House in order to try to stop further murders.

    This was an amazing book and there is a twist at the end that I never once saw coming - it was very well done and I have to congratulate the author on so successfully fooling me. The characters are all well-done with developed personalities and separate natures, even if they are minor characters - this is always a trait I much admire in a writer. Overall, this is a must-read for fantasy, mystery, thriller, suspense AND noir fans - definitely pick this one up!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

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