Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel it's a pure twisted reading delight. Set in Durban, South Africa, the rainbow nation has gained an octarine hue filled with magic and populated with a vast array of supernatural creatures. Our protagonist, Gideon Tau, works for The Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. When a vampire is brutally murdered Tau is drawn into an investigation that could shatter the fragile truce that exists between Nightside and Dayside. More importantly, he might finally be able to uncover the identity of his daughter’s killer...
Poison City is filled with a cast of memorable, snarky characters. Gideon Tau is not your typical hero. Haunted by the death of his daughter he is a broken man struggling to deal with loss; his only true purpose is his quest for justice. He sees ‘n job that needs doing and then simply does it. His spirit guide, Dog (just ‘Dog’) is the perverted spiritual successor to Discworld’s Gaspode - a quite literal boozehound. Dog loves nothing more than getting drunk and watching TV, only occasionally deigning to provide a helping paw. Oh, and he seems to love fire a bit too much... And lastly there’s Armitage, the no-nonsense head of the Delphic Division, with a wicked sense of humour she is overly protective of her domain and doesn’t suffer fools easily.
It soon becomes apparent that in this dark, morally corrupt world there are larger forces at play. Tau’s relentless search for his daughter’s killer drives him to a point where he has nothing left to lose. Utterly despondent, his choices lead the world to the brink of disaster. As a sharp counterpoint to those who wash away all memory of their wrongdoing through the services of sin-eaters, Tau takes responsibility for his actions and claws his way back from the dark abyss to redeem himself, but redemption always comes at a price. A price Tau might not be willing to pay...
The major theme in Poison City is corruption in all its forms. There are corrupt politicians and officials, the law is perverted for personal gain, even people's beliefs are corrupted and ultimately humanity itself proves to be a corrupted blight on the world. You’ll never be able to look at humanity in quite the same way again. It turns out that even in a world filled with supernatural creatures, humans are still the greatest monsters.
Crilley’s prose brings the world to vibrant life. Durban and surrounds take on a life of their own, even if you have never been there before it feels familiar. Crilley manages to infuse that distinctly South African feel into the world. It’s tough to describe, but as a native South African it just feels like home. The world-building is brilliantly executed. Every action has consequences and there's always a price to be paid. I loved the fact that magic (shinecraft) takes such a toll on its users. Akin to addiction it alters the wielder in irrevocable ways with sometimes fatal results; that’s something that you seldom see in most fantasy novels. I also particularly enjoyed the multitude of supernatural creatures roaming the world. Drawn from various cultures and mythologies they added an unusually diverse layer to the world. The very dark and twisted take on religious mythology also came as an unsettling surprise. I don't think I've ever come across such a dark interpretation before.
The nail-biting conclusion is utterly satisfying while still leaving ample room for a sequel. Make no mistake, after reading Poison City you’ll definitely want to return to this world over and over again. I definitely can’t wait for the next adventure and hope to see more of Dog (and Tau) soon!
Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel this is a pure twisted reading delight. You’ll never be able to look at humanity in quite the same way. Highly recommended! Just be warned that it does get quite dark.
The Rating: 7.5/10 (Great)
Thanks to Kelly from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.