My hopes were high for the third book in the Fetch Phillips Archives, and One Foot in the Fade ended up even better than I’d expected!
Book: One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold
Publication date: 28th April 2022
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Orbit Books. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: violence, injury and death in many creative ways; some mild gore and body horror.
AN ANGEL FALLS IN SUNDER CITY…
In a city that lost its magic, an angel falls in a downtown street. His wings are feathered, whole – undeniably magical – the man clearly flew, for all that he plummeted to his downfall moments after.
The mystery will set Fetch – in his quest to bring magic back to his beloved city – on a journey involving necromancers, genies and shadowy secret societies. Fetch will search Sunder’s wildest forests and dingiest dive bars for the answer, and when he finds it, nothing will ever be the same again.
Whew, where to begin with this one? Probably with my standard sequel warning: I can’t talk about this book without at least mentioning a few effects of the first two, so if you want to to go into this series completely spoiler free and you haven’t yet started The Last Smile in Sunder City, hop back to my review of book one to find out why you should pick it up! You can also find my review of book two, Dead Man in a Ditch, at the link if you missed it.
One Foot in the Fade has what I’m coming to think of as Luke Arnold’s trademark blend of belly laughs and gut punches – it’s smart, slick urban fantasy in a rich secondary world with a well-meaning but slightly-less-capable-than-he-acts protagonist, and it will have you giggling on one page and crying on the next. While this book didn’t quite wreck me emotionally as much as Dead Man in a Ditch did, it’s still packed with twisty plot and nothing is as simple as it seems (or as Fetch would like it to be!). In the course of this book, we get a fetch quest (lol) for a mythical item, a fun reluctant-allies roadtrip, a dangerous, bloody battle, and more, including plenty of time in Sunder City itself, which is more advanced in technology every time we see it (whether or not that’s a good thing). It’s big, world-changing stuff, but it always feels very personal. This is a world where magic no longer works, but there’s still an absolute wealth of world-building to explore; this isn’t a human world with a few magical touches, this is a fully magical world that just happens to have stopped working.
I can’t tell you how much I adore Fetch and the ways in which he’s developed over these three books – he’s a classic noir detective, except he’s not very sneaky, his connections are terrible, and his heart is far too soft. One Foot in the Fade subtly showcases the changes that have been wrought on him by his previous adventures, and while he’s still recognisably the same person at heart, his development is significant. What I really love is that the narrative is never afraid to call him out when he’s getting too cocky or his ideas are misguided – I’ll often be thinking ‘huh, Fetch is doing that thing he said he wouldn’t do’ and then a few pages later that pops up in his own thoughts. In this book in particular, we see him start to move away from his idealism – not necessarily into anything nihilistic, though he has his moments, but more into a mature understanding of life, and he begins to develop into a character who feels less ‘scrappy underdog with a dream’ and more ‘determined rebel with a plan’. Not that it’s not fun to see him get knocked about by life, but I’m really looking forward to seeing him get a bit more intentional about bringing the magic back to Sunder City. (And please, please let me be right that there will be more books…)
This is without a doubt one of my favourite adult fantasy series. It’s just so smart and full of life – and all set in a world that’s not quite like anything else I’ve read. I love how each new book offers just a few more hints about what life was like before the magic went away, and I’m desperate to finally figure out what’s going on with all of the history, both on the world level and on a Fetch level. So if you’re in the mood for an adventure that starts out with an angel in a soup kitchen, takes a diversion through a road trip in a company car with a werewolf, and ends up with… well, spoilers, but I assure you it’s dramatic – then this is a must-read. Five out of five cats!