Science fiction and fantasy
Tomorrow The Killing
by Daniel Polansky
Tomorrow the Killing jumps around in time a lot. There are flashbacks from Warden's past in the Dren war, and his view of exactly how many glorious heroes were involved in it. There's a grittiness in this book to rival Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy. Warden takes a very bleak view of humanity, from the corruption of those in power to the cowardice or savagery of soldiers and the underclass. These flashback chapters get quite confusing because there are so many of them, and none are labelled with dates so I was always having to spend the first page of each chapter figuring out when we were in Warden's lifetime. It breaks the flow of the story. I also got the impression that not very much was happening other than a lot of talking, spying, and ominous hints for at least the first half of the story. In between abusing his liver and irritating his friends, Warden just seemed to be paying people visits and putting wheels in motion.
Wren, who we met in the first book as a skinny street kid, is now a skinny teenager. But he's developed a magical spark that will get him carted off into an institution if it's discovered. If he doesn't learn to use it properly his talents could also lead to madness. But Warden has too much going on already, so finding the surly boy a tutor isn't going to be easy.
"He still looked like he could toss a cow over a wall," is the characteristically colourful way the author describes Adolphus, one of Warden's few friends. Adolphus is getting deeply involved with the Association at a time when that might not be a safe choice. So there's a lot going on, and the pace improves a great deal when Warden's scheming comes to a head and he runs the risk of his plans getting discovered by all the factions he's trying to play off against one another.
The main character isn't morally upright, or hard working, or pleasant, and he rarely stands up for anything worthwhile. In some ways he's scarcely distinguishable from all the other villains and degenerates of the Low Town underworld. About his only redeeming feature is his patter, and because this is consistently entertaining it tips him over the edge into likeableness. The story has a cunning ending with a really good payoff. But Warden's personality is the only thing that keeps the narrative interesting during the book's stodgy middle, when elaborate set-up and overlong episodes of back story slow the pace.
25th September 2012
If you like this, try:The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
In the first episode of The First Law series some very different characters fight for truth, survival, or simply to look good.
A Serpent Uncoiled by Simon Spurrier
Dan Shaper sees visions of his own corruption. He is forced to confront his guilty past when a killer starts picking off victims in this crime novel.
Review © Ros Jackson
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