The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold – Review

Cover- The Last Smile in Sunder City

Published: February 6, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Fetch Phillips Archives #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 316 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


A former soldier turned PI tries to help the fantasy creatures whose lives he ruined in a world that’s lost its magic in a compelling debut fantasy by Black Sails actor Luke Arnold. Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:1. Sobriety costs extra. 2. My services are confidential. 3. I don’t work for humans. It’s nothing personal–I’m human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help. Walk the streets of Sunder City and meet Fetch, his magical clients, and a darkly imagined world perfect for readers of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

I ended up reading one downer book after another this time around, with The Last Smile in Sunder City right on the heels of The Whisper Man. The world in this book is richly detailed, but it’s quite depressing and it feels like the atmosphere’s covered in a layer of thick, gloomy smudge. On top of this, Fetch Phillips (our main character) just hates himself. 

The info dumps were huge. The world building was pretty cool and I loved the wide variety of supernatural beings. Also, it was doubly interesting because the supernatural beings are all slowly (or in some cases quickly) dying because those DARN HUMANS RUINED EVERYTHING. Sunder City used to be a metalworking hub but now it’s full of a bunch of depressed folk just trying to move on with their lives. And everyone hates Fetch Phillips. Including me. 

I thought this was a creative that touched really well on post-war trauma, grief, struggles etc. but I can’t say I really enjoyed reading this. There were some sections that were enjoyable, but the overall atmosphere is certainly dark and it deals with hard things. It’s a detective story on the surface but deep down it’s mostly about dealing with a past the main character regrets immensely and how he tries to make up for his mistakes in his day to day life. The struggle is real in this one.

This isn’t a book you should read if you want to feel good. It doesn’t make you feel good – it’s sad, I might have shed a tear and I just felt quite bad for Fetch (even though I didn’t really like him) and all the beings that were slowly being destroyed by the end of magic. There is a sequel slated to be released later this year and more than likely I’ll read it, though if I don’t like the next installment I’ll probably call it quits for this series.

5 thoughts on “The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold – Review

  1. I enjoyed this and am hoping future books in the series are less depressive. My main issue with it was the HUGE info dumps. Some of them could have been short stories themselves.

    Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if this is two novellas (past and present) held together with info dumps.

    Liked by 1 person

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