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Book Reivew- “Tomorrow the Killing”

February 20, 2013 2 comments

 daniel-polansky-tomorrow-the-killingMedieval style fantasy stories are often black and white tales about morally upstanding warriors on a quest to save a mythical kingdom, which means they’re often pretty boring. That doesn’t mean I find the genre itself boring though. I enjoy a good fantasy story when it’s heroes are a bit more morally complex. In his second novel “Tomorrow the Killing” writer Daniel Polansky once again proves that his protagonist, the Warden, is one of the most morally complex characters in fantasy fiction.

That’s because the warden isn’t a knight, a wizard, or even a barbarian. He’s a drug dealer. That’s right a drug dealer! And his current occupation isn’t the only thing that’s fascinating about the character. His past jobs as a soldier in one of the bloodiest wars the city-state of Rigus has ever seen and a member of the country’s secret police make the character even more compelling. That past has given the Warden a healthy cynicism that is often at war with a desire for justice and to protect and or avenge the innocent. Much to the Warden’s chagrin he often finds himself giving into these desires and embarking on exploits that leave him physically and emotionally battered. The Warden narrates these exploits himself so they are colored by his fascinating and world weary perspective.

In Polanksy’s first novel “Low Town” or as it’s known in the UK “Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure” we were introduced to the Warden and the titular slums of Rigus that he calls home. The plot of the story involved the character’s present day vocation as a drug dealer and his past as a soldier. For “Tomorrow the Killing” though” the author really delves in to the Warden’s background as a soldier as the ghosts of the great war come back to haunt him in the form a general with a missing daughter.

The Warden agrees to help the General because of his connection to the man’s other child, a soldier named Roland, one of the few commanders in the great war that the Warden actually respected. Roland died many years ago and his sister wants to know why. So she’s disappeared in to the slums of Low Town, and to find the young girl and protect her the Warden must investigate and revisit some of his dead friend’s associations like the veteran’s group Roland lead, which made the ruling elite of Rigus very nervous and some of the criminal syndicates Roland’s group went to war with.

The way the Warden investigates and navigates these violent and corrupt organizations is fun and exciting. You get to see the character’s cunningDanielPolansky and skill with a blade put to the test in passages that read like a combination of Dashiell Hammett and George R.R. Martin. Plus the grittiness of Low Town and its inhabitants give the book a street level starkness reminiscent of the television show “The Wire.” The story is further enhanced by flashbacks to the days the Warden and his best friend Adolphus spent fighting the bloody war with the kingdom of the Dren. All of these elements combine to create a tale that takes place in a fantasy world that feels brutally and powerfully real.

The crime story of Roland’s murder and his sister’s disappearance is at the heart of “Tomorrow the Killing,” but Polansky also makes time for the magical elements of the world he created as well. One of the book’s sub plots involves the Warden’s quest to find a teacher to help develop the magical talents of Wren, a young street urchin adopted by Adolphus and his wife. This subplot involves an interesting and frighteningly powerful sorceress who has some fun scenes with the Warden.

The magical subplot also gives Polansky a way to further flesh out Wren and his adoptive parents. The parents are also part of the events of the primary story line which find Adolphus becoming involved with the veteran’s organization and his wife becoming upset by the seedy figures her husband is associating with.

So in “Tomorrow the Killing” Polansky combines great characters, visceral action, and shocking and powerful revelations for a tale that’s even better than his stellar first novel. I’m not sure what Polanksy has planned for his third book, but I would love another chance to venture down the mean streets of Low Town with the Warden.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “The Wrath of Angels”

February 10, 2013 2 comments

The Wrath of Angels US, John Connolly,“Now that’s more like it, Mr. Wayne”- Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) “The Dark Knight”

When I first started reading John Connolly’s series of novels about police man turned private detective Charlie Parker I was under the impression that I was going to be getting some cool crime fiction tales about P.I. up against some of the worst criminals imaginable. I got that, but I also got something a little more intriguing. Just below the surface there was a bubbling undercurrent of supernatural horror. It was also almost implied, you weren’t sure if the horror elements were real or a product of Parker’s grief stricken mind.

As the series progressed that undercurrent began to bubble even faster and eventually reached a boil in 2009’s “The Lovers,” one of my favorite books in the series. It was there where after wading into the supernatural horror swimming pool that Connolly finally took his readers into deep end. After that we were given two books that had supernatural elements, but did not add to the larger tale that Connolly had been telling about Parker’s battle against beings that may or may not be fallen angels and the shadowy figures that supported them. These books were entertaining, but they didn’t contain the payoffs I was looking for. I’m happy to report though Connolly’s latest Charlie Parker novel, “The Wrath of Angels” was all I was hoping it would be and more.

In “The Wrath of Angels” Parker is hired to find a plane that crashed deep in the Maine woods several years back. Sounds fairly mundane right? Wrong! It’s believed that wreckage of the plane contains a list of people who have struck deals with the devils

This means that more people then Parker are interested in the list. In “The Lovers” Connolly introduced a Rabbi named Epstein who hunts fallenImageHandler.ashx angels with the help of a private army. He returns in “The Wrath of Angels” and wants to use the list to strike a blow for righteousness. The Collector, the fearsome and vengeful serial killer that Connelly introduced back in a novella in his short story collection “Nocturnes” wants to use it to add to his collection and eliminate some evil doers. And of course the forces of darkness want to make sure none of them retrieve the list. That triangle makes ‘The Wrath of Angels” so much fun.

You of course get to spend your usual amount of time with Parker and his friends and comrades at arms the ex-hit man known as Louis and his lover the ex-burglar Angel. Regular readers of the series know that Louis and Angel are both awe inspiring bad-asses and provide the Parker books with some much needed comic relief. On top of that usual stuff though you get so many more cool and interesting insights.

For instance, you get to learn more about the past of Rabbi Epstein and his organization. What we learn there is so exciting and interesting that I wouldn’t mind reading a novel about the exploits of Epstein and his organization.

You also get to spend an extended amount of time with the Collector. Connolly gives you a peek inside this intriguing character’s background and how his world works. Those scenes  just jumped off the page too.

Plus you’re given a lot more info about the fallen angels and the organization that supports them. There are some pretty creepy and cool revelations there that I won’t spoil, but let’s just say they’re an even more fearsome than I previously thought.

The shadowy organization lingers in the background of “The Wrath of Angels,” but they also send out two champions to deal with those trying to gain control of the list. One will be familiar to long time fans of the Parker series, and one is a creepy new villain. They’re not the only opposition either. The patch of Maine Woods where the crash plane lays is haunted by forces both living and dead.

So that mix of horror, action, revelations, and compelling characters makes for a hell of a read. “The Wrath of Angels” is one of the best entries in the Charlie Parker series, and not just because it’s an immensely satisfying read. It’s also because the book furthers the larger story Connelly is telling and sets up what could be an even more interesting and exciting next novel.