The Last Smile in Sunder City, by Luke Arnold

Fetch Phillips is a familiar kind of detective. He drinks hard. He has no money. Most people want to punch him on sight. Above all, Fetch has a lot of past mistakes to atone for. Those mistakes are slowly revealed over the course of Luke Arnold’s wonderfully immersive novel, The Last Smile in Sunder City. But all that comes later. At the beginning of the novel, Fetch is hired to track down a missing vampire and he means to do his best in spite of his addictions, people trying to hit him, and a world that is collapsing in on itself due to the abrupt loss of magic that happened some years previously.

In the “present,” we watch Fetch talk to people who knew the missing vampire and dig up clues. The vampire is a well-respected teacher who, like the rest of his species, instantly aged and grew decrepit without magic to sustain him. Indeed, all of the other magical races are in similar straights. Fetch is only okay (physically at least) because he’s human. In a world without magic, humans are on the rise. It’s only through flashbacks that we find out why Fetch is so down on his own species—but I’m not going to give that away.

Fetch is a great character—this book is full of great characters—but what really attracted me to this story was the world that Arnold created. Actually, one could say that Arnold created two worlds. There’s the world the Fetch currently inhabits. Nothing except human-created machines work right. Everything magical is toast. Then there are the hints about the world before the magic went away. Fetch laments the beauty and wonder of that magical world. In the flashbacks, we see a young human who is in awe of what the elves and ogres and were-people and the fae and the rest can do. As I read, I was hoping that The Last Smile in Sunder City was building towards the restoration of magic. This part I will give away: this novel is the beginning of a series and the restoration of magic is not a simple thing that can be fixed in one book.

I inhaled The Last Smile in Sunder City. It’s so creative and so well done, with so much heart. I’m excited to recommend this book to other readers.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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