“Relax, Cap,” I said paying more attention to the surrounding than to Mr. VanDarn, “we’re on the same team.”
“What!? This be the crime scene not a tourist attraction, and that’s Captain to you, you oversized poke of bat guano! The nerve of… I’ll take you around back of this building an’ pound some manners into that gimlet li’l butt o’ yorn. The we’ll see who yer callin’ ‘Cap’.”
“I might just take you up on that…” I started but Yon touched the inside of my elbow. I glanced at him and he gave a barely noticeable shake of his head. It was just about then that another oen of the Civil Watch approached.
“Captain,” he said, saluting. “We found a witness. An old dwarf was lying behind the bench over there. Said he was bedding down for the night when it happened…”
“What?” I whispered to Yon.
“Rumor has It he used to be in the Phoenix Guard, Boss,” Yon whispered back.
“Oh.” The Phoenix Guard was an elite group of Dwarven Military. They were the ones you called when the guano got too deep. The best trained, best equipped and toughest outfit there was. Phoenix Guard were the ones that piloted the steam-operated Power Armor on the Front Line. I wasn’t quite sure what a dwarf with Mr. VanDarn’s qualification was doing running the Civil Watch in a town like ours, but I’m kind of glad Yon was there to stop me from making a mistake that might’ve cost me some teeth.
I stumbled upon There Shouldn’t Be Elves in Hammertown by Stephen Dorning on Goodreads by mare chance. I was immediately taken with the title, with the dieselpunk setting and with the main character who’s a detective – bit of a cliché, I know, but I didn’t care. The feel is very much like the Oberon Saga by Ari Marmell, which I loved in the Broken Time’s Blues anthology, so I figured I should give the story a shot.
Right, I’ve always had a soft spot for dwarves ever since I’ve read Tolkien, but I didn’t expect this to work this nicely. Elves who are on the ‘bad’ side? A weary noir detective? A dwarven underground town? I immediately loved everything about the story. Not just the setting, which is itself very nice, but also the very noir main character Sebastian and his amused, wry voice.
This is basically a detective story: there’s a mystery – a murder, even – there are people disappearing, and there’s possibly a political plot afoot. All mixed up with a generous dose of noir, classic fantasy elements and new dieselpunk suggestions.
Truly enjoyed it.
So I’m happy to discover there’s more. Apparently, the author is writing a series of novelettes that will eventually all tight up together in a larger story, which is an idea I like. Fun as this story is to read as a stand alone, it is quite clear it’s just the beginning of a larger story.
I’ll hunt down the rest.
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