Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Kim Lakin-Smith


Tourniquet takes place in a very different Nottingham to the one you may know. Renamed Renegade City, it has been transformed into a haven for goths, rockers, vampires, fae, and all the other alternative subcultures who want to live the lifestyle instead of simply acting it out at weekends. The gothic mecca has become a sort of fusion of fantastic styles embracing witchcraft, cyberpunk, vampirism, and a dash of Mad Max.

The inhabitants of Renegade City are divided into tribes, based as much on their dress sense and lifestyle preferences as on family ties. When we first meet Jezebel she is trying to find out what has become of her brother Harish, one of the Skinwalkers. As the grisly name suggests, Skinwalkers are a rough lot, given to wild parties, bursts of violence, beastly behaviour and occasional howling at the moon.

Meanwhile, a man who goes by the name of Druid is looking out over the city and wondering what became of his brother, Roses. Roses died in the prime of his life, and Druid wants to know who killed him, and why. Roses and Druid weren't ordinary citizens, however: along with High Lord Adeudas and Lady Sophia they make up the Drathcor, vampiric types belonging to the rock band Origin, the founders of the gothic reinvention of Renegade City and the system of Belief that binds it.

Only Belief seems to be faltering, and the city is disintegrating into a dangerous and lawless place where the tribes are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the system, and divided amongst themselves. Druid tours the city incognito in his attempt to uncover the truth about Roses, and in the process he discovers what has become of his gothic paradise.

The imagery in this book is incredibly detailed and rich in a stark kind of way, rather like the whole book is set within a Tim Burton film, or perhaps a H. R. Giger painting. Kim Lakin-Smith has a distinctive way with words that brings everything vividly to life (or unlife). But unfortunately the author tends to take this to excess, and gets carried away with metaphors to the extent that the moody atmosphere overshadows all else. When almost everything and everyone is referred to metaphorically, it can be difficult at times to figure out just who or what is being discussed.

There are quite a few things in Tourniquet that could have done with more clarification. It's not clear whether the action takes place in an alternative present or in the near future, so the reader is left wondering about this. We're not told what exactly Belief is all about, only that it's a faith that once united the people of Renegade City. And as a result we are left wondering whether the people have been changed by a supernatural force, or if their differences are entirely artificial, like the nanofibre wings of the Fae tribe. Are they all just dressing up?

Part of the job description of a goth is feeling sorry for oneself, and Druid fulfils this stereotype perfectly. He's far too given to introspection and moping to be a truly engaging character. It takes a sidekick, the young and ever-curious Irvine Quirk, to chivvy him from one misadventure to the next.

They go from seedy dive to club to tea-party, in a plot that seems a lot more like an extended bar crawl than a murder mystery. The main characters seem to blunder into a lot of pointless fights that erupt for no real reason, and everyone involved seems to be pathologically irascible. Even after we get past the lengthy scene-setting, the plot meanders just a little too much: there's action (read, fighting), but not progress.

Tourniquet is trying to say something about what it means to belong in a group, or to be an outsider. But like many of its impractically overdressed characters this is a novel with more style than substance.

Book Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Books


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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson