Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold is the sequel to his debut novel The Last Smile in Sunder City. Luke Arnold is a writer and actor who starred in the hit TV series “Black Sails”. As I haven’t read the first book this review will be slightly shorter as I won’t be able to draw comparisons from book one.
Anyway, much of the story takes place in Sunder City. This city was once a place in which magic ran through the veins of many of its habitants and beneath the city. Magic was held by mages, warlocks, orcs, fairies, werewolves, even gnomes. Those days however are long gone due to an event known as Coda which put a permanent cap on the flow of magic. Those who once relied on magic in their every day lives must now navigate the world powerless and learn to go through life without any magic.
One of the individuals involved in magic stopping is Fetch Phillips, a human, former soldier and now a man for hire. In Dead Man in a Ditch, the police force ask Fetch to investigate a dead man found in a bar. Upon arriving, Fetch discovers that the dead man has in fact been killed by magic! Fetch must therefore discover who caused this horrendous crime and whether magic has in fact returned.
Dead Man in a Ditch was a really enjoyable read that I raced through this month. It was really fast paced with action, drama, and humour. I found the character of Fetch Phillips really interesting. On one hand he’s an absolute dick, however on the inside he is always trying to do what’s best for others and help others in order to absolve his mistakes in the past. Fetch has many regrets and this is something that the author highlights really well. Since the Coda incident you can tell Fetch feels nothing but guilt. This is one of the main reasons why Fetch became a man for hire. It’s basically his redemption quest.
In the process of helping others with their issues, Fetch finds himself in the worst of situations, often coming out a bloody mess and having to wear a rabbit hat (read the book and you’ll know why). There isn’t just one case that Fetch tackles in this novel. Yes there is one big one but there are a few other cases that Fetch finds himself in which end up being connected to the big case. This leads to some great plot twists and intense moments.
There are also a range of different side characters such as Detective Richie Kites a half ogre, Detective Simms, Carissa an elf, and many more eccentric characters. Although there are many side characters and people who help Fetch along the way, there is always this feeling of loneliness with Fetch Phillips. It made me feel really bad for him even though his mistake ruined the lives of all magical beings. But I totally understand why people resent Fetch because come on the man stole away the one thing that made Sunder tick!
The world building in this book for me was phenomenal. There is so much depth that I would love to be transported to Sunder back in its heyday. There are many unique magical beings from gnomes, warlocks, elves, ogres, mages, to even unicorns! What I think Luke Arnold nails is the way in which these magical beings have been impacted by not having anymore magic. For example, elves now age like normal human beings and no longer have eternal youth. Unicorns have gone mad, fires needed to meld no longer flows. It’s these wee things that add so much to the story.
“This is a marvelous city to play in but most people misunderstand the game. The beauty of Sunder is that it isn’t some ancient kingdom bogged down with bloodlines and crowns where the leaders spend all their time trying to cut each other at the necks. It’s a market. A dance-hall. It’s a laboratory of unstable chemicals reacting to each other in beautiful and unexpected ways”
People who relied on magic face the difficult task of finding their place in the world as things are now out of balance in Sunder City. Magical beings must therefore think outside the box more than ever before in order to get by, and have some kind of purpose in the world. Luke Arnold does really well in highlighting the issues society is having as a result of humans being the biggest c*** block.
Overall, i really enjoyed this novel and it felt very fresh and new to me. It’s difficult for me to compare this with The Last Smile of Sunder City because I haven’t read it. But I really enjoyed this as it gave a new take on the fantasy genre. Fetch Phillips is an incredibly fun and charming character who you want to know more about as you get to know him. If you’re looking for a fun and quick read then I definitely recommend!
Thank you once again to the magnificent Angela and the Orbit team for sending me this! The book is available now!