Those Above by Daniel Polansky

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Those Above by Daniel Polansky

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A dark, grim, and cleverly constructed piece of world building, Those Above is a great start to a duology that gets the reader prepared and excited for more…
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444779912

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For three thousand years Those Above have ruled over their human subjects. From the glittering palaces of their eternal city, they enforce their will with fire and sword. Twenty-five years ago, mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Whilst hope died that day, hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt begin to stir throughout the oppressed: a widowed woman, dedicated to revenge: a general, the only to defeat one of Those Above; and a boy killer, who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising.

Danile Polanksy has previously written a trilogy of fantasy books – the Low Town series, a gritty but fun series that plunged the noir aesthetic into a fantasy world. He does the a similar thing here, but instead puts the noir twist onto a more epic style of fantasy – and the result works very well indeed. Epic Fantasy with a stroke of grim realism is of course all the rage, with A Song of Ice and Fire leading the stampede, but with a ton of books released in recent years that fit the bill too, shovelling in the sex, swearing and violence, but often forgoing elements like characterisation or plot along the way…

Mercifully, Daniel Polansky is a very good author, and sets his book apart from others by utilising his skill as a world builder – most of this novel is spent creating the intricate world in which these characters live, and it's to the author's credit that this doesn't become dull. The characters are well depicted and describe their environments well, but with the emphasis on creating a world, they have yet to leap off the page and engage the reader – although I have no doubt that this will be rectified in book two.

In fact, although I will reserve full judgement until book two, this may have worked better as part one of a larger tome – whilst excellent, I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed by the lack of character movement and development, as excellently written as the surrounding details are. I'll certainly be looking forward to book two – Those Below, and I think this has potential to do well. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I will recommend, as I've recommended several times before, Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan – In my opinion the best fantasy series of recent years, this is a grim and dark fantasy with compelling characters and rip-roaring action.

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