Book Review: THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY by Luke Arnold

Title in front of a decaying, grey building facade
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 Stars
Series: I think so?


Book cover for THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY: white title surrounded by red and grey streets

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 magic, it’s not the humans who need my help. 

A former soldier turned PI tries to help the fantasy creatures whose lives he ruined in a world that’s lost its magic. Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is a fun debut. It’s very short (barely more than 300 pages) so if you’re looking for a quick read with an engaging narrator and a fun world, then pick this up.

Yes, but what’s it about? I know; it’s a pathetic synopsis. It doesn’t help you anticipate the plot at all. It’s a trend I’m noticing more and more, and it’s really frustrating me.

Mini-rage aside, what is the book actually about?

Fetch Phillips is a Man-for-hire, helping non-humans in a world where magic is gone. When the principal of a radical new school that educates formerly-magical species together with the tale of a missing teacher, Fetch is pulled into a search where no one wants to tell the truth to a member of the species who got rid of magic. The bodies and missing people quickly multiply…

There is a lot of other stuff going on, but I’m not good at writing synopses (hence pinching from Goodreads!) At times, all this other stuff – particularly the long flashbacks that built up Fetch’s life and how we got rid of magic – did pull away from the main mystery. As to him being the person who got rid of magic, I’d say that was him claiming too much. He’s certainly culpable, but not as much as the synopsis (and he) says.

My favourite part of the book was the world. How does the world react now magic’s gone? The power’s shifted from magical creatures to humans. They don’t have to adapt their way of life beyond the magic-powered appliances, and they’re not slowly (or not so slowly) dying. It creates a wonderful atmosphere of unease and sorrow, as well as mistrust and hatred for humans – a bit of a barrier for a human investigator..

The book also capture the feel of an industrial city that’s lost the bulk of its industry and is now undergoing rapid change all while people are still streaming into the city for work as there’s none to be had elsewhere. It added a layer of desperate need and not enough to go around.

The narrator is full of voice, despondent and self-loathing but with a spark of dark humour in there. It really does sound like a banged-up, half-drunk guy is telling you what happened.

Read my reviews of other books by Luke Arnold:

Fetch Philips (this series):

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