Tomorrow the Killing by Daniel Polansky

“’Let me tell you something about the dead, as someone who’s seen a few of them. They don’t care what we do. They don’t yearn for vengeance, and they don’t hope for redemption. They rot…Stick around Low Town and you’ll find out I’m right.’”

There are very few authors who can effectively change the sub-genre that they’re working in. Daniel Polanksy has the ability and talent to do just that with Fantasy Noir, a relatively new field.

The Warden’s back. Three years have passed since the events in Low Town. His voice has become ever more prominent, his fist on the pixie even stronger, especially as time goes by. He’s just as cynical as we left him, perhaps more so. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Trilogies, or most progression with novels in particular, usually have a slump in their sophomore book. Tomorrow the Killing throws that stereotype out the window, to its death, then crushes the thing in the mud. It’s amazing how well Polansky does in his second novel. It’s not a completely different writer, it’s just a guy who’s improved on his style, a style I so adore.

I’ll begin by saying that the prose is what you come for in this novel. It’s sarcastic; it’s black with humor. Nearly every line is quotable, even the dialogue. It’s fabulous, and I love a book that can make my slide into the stream of its narrative with ease.

“Nobody likes being told they’re walking in the wrong direction, even if the trail ends at a cliff.”

You get a smooth, albeit slow pace. I had to savor each and every word. Luckily, it wasn’t exhausting like most books I treat this way.

Unlike Low Town, we have a much tighter plot, a mystery without a flaw I could see, (even a joke in the murder) save maybe all the Warden’s time going upstairs to sleep. But hey, that’s tight plotting to a degree. Who can argue with effectiveness?

We have a fair amount of introspection, but it doesn’t bog down the story. As I said, we keep the same mellow pace throughout, even till the end. It’s really hard to pull off this slow speed and keep me invested for the whole novel. I believe it was from the short chapters that I could spring through them in a sluggish heartbeat.

And the voice.

The voice/prose is the biggest thing Polansky has going for him. It is marvelous. No, magnificent is an understatement. The only book I’ve read this year that comes close to the brilliance of his writing is The Great Gatsby. That’s a tall compliment, I know, but he deserves it. His phrasing is truly jaw-dropping. This could never be adapted to a movie; it would lose some of its appeal.

Alongside a strong tone and writing style, we have drawn-out characters, well realized and with understandable intentions. All the way from Adisu the Damned Insane to Mazzie of the Stained Bone, the local witchdoctor who becomes little Wren’s teacher, these people are so fascinating. Really, I wanted more.

“’And leave out all that nonsense you do for the look-sees. He comes home chanting gibberish or trying to sacrifice any of our chickens and his mother will have my hide.’”

That’s essentially what this book is, character interactions in dialogue and introspection. There’s barely any violence till the last third of the novel. And when it comes, it swings hard.

Aside from the witty banter, which there is mounds of, a strong philosophy manages to weave itself between the sarcasm.

Polansky shows us through the Warden’s eyes the futility of war. He shows us how the Warden came to be so jaded. He shows a character’s plight. And I think this is where he nails the story. From a literary standpoint, this is his big achievement. Writers can have all the flowery sentences they want dotting their story, but if they can’t tell a story, then there’s no point. Tomorrow the Killing is a bleak novel, and nowhere else is this shown than in the flashbacks.

This is what a 1st person novel should be, a poem with a well-realized voice. It’s hard bitten; it’s acerbic. It’s probably the best tone I’ve ever read. My only complaint is that the ending wasn’t as strong as I would’ve liked. He could’ve cut out the final paragraph, but who cares? This story has a thousand amazing paragraphs with only one “meh.”

I can tell you right now, like Jeffrey Archer and Scott Lynch, if you haven’t picked up a novel by either of these three writers, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Tomorrow the Killing, I would argue, was probably the best fantasy book released in 2012, or at least one of the best. It may have flew under the radar, but that’s no excuse. I sure as hell can tell you it’s one of the best I’ve read in 2013.

“There’s no such thing as justice, only revenge, and once you get it you realize how little it means.”

Rating: 9/10

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