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Low Town #3

She Who Waits

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The third novel in the brilliant dark fantasy Low Town series

Low Town: the worst ghetto in the worst city in the Thirteen Lands. Good only for depravity and death. And Warden, long ago a respected agent in the formidable Black House, is now the most depraved Low Town denizen of them all. As a younger man, Warden carried out more than his fair share of terrible deeds, and never as many as when he worked for the Black House. But Warden's growing older, and the vultures are circling. Low Town is changing, faster than even he can control, and Warden knows that if he doesn't get out soon, he may never get out at all. But Warden must finally reckon with his terrible past if he can ever hope to escape it. A hospital full of lunatics, a conspiracy against the corrupt new king, and a ghetto full of thieves and murderers stand between him and his slim hope for the future. And behind them all waits the one person whose betrayal Warden never expected. The one person who left him, broken and bitter, to become the man he is today. The one woman he ever loved. She who waits behind all things.

405 pages, Hardcover

First published October 30, 2013

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About the author

Daniel Polansky

29 books1,136 followers
Daniel Polansky is the author of the Low Town trilogy, Empty Throne duology, the Hugo-nominated novella The Builders, and A City Dreaming. He can be found in Los Angeles, mostly.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 176 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
December 19, 2022
There's something about Polansky's writing that floats my boat. I'm not alone in this, other authors I know have said it too. I'd call Polansky a writers' writer but that might imply he's not a readers' writer, and he's certainly that.

The first two books in this series (trilogy?) are excellent but when you get to She Who Waits you understand they were entrees. This is the main course - this is where the payoffs you hadn't noticed building up are delivered. There's a level of emotion in this book that was perhaps absent in the first two. Where the first two fascinated and entertained, this one will also make you care.

Polansky writes great noir crime fiction, his plots are complex and draw you in, his characters are colorful and well drawn. He wields the first person point of view masterfully, fully exposing the man at the pivot point of the tale without exposition or breaking character. His greatest strength perhaps is in slick, witty, bitter, revealing dialogue.

These books deserve a bigger readership. The range of reviews tell me that (as with any book) not everyone likes them, but if you liked my work, you may well love these. The 1st book has an average rating of 3.76, but the 53 of my readers/goodreads friends who've read it give it an average 4.11.

Certainly if you liked book 1 you will LOVE book 3.

I commend them to your attention.

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Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
February 9, 2017
This final book in the trilogy was rather special, as long as you love grit, grime, and the final act in a revenge fifteen years in the building.

The Warden has had a nice and long run, it is true, and even after his disgrace and his fallen status as the sneaky and clever peacemaker kingpin of drugs in this detailed fantasy shithole of a town, he isn't one to be pushed too far.

She Who Waits, the third titular euphemism for death, certainly lives up to it's promise, and it just goes to prove that you can't keep a man on a mission down. Especially when it involves the mastermind Old Man or the Warden's old love who was the architect of his fall from the Old Man's graces.

Are we tearing the world down? Are we just here to see the world burn? No. The Warden is still trying to protect both the last dregs of his idealism and his chosen family, no matter how difficult it has become, and he's willing to give it all up to do so.

What a grand tale, emotional and smart and deadly. This third novel ties up all the loose ends that really needed tying, it's true, but more importantly, it rests as one hell of a capstone for the trilogy.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,433 reviews828 followers
October 27, 2016
‘You ain’t never leaving Low Town, child. They gonna stick you in the dirt.' So predicts one of the characters in the book.
The Warden. What a character. Really not a good man and yet the anti-hero of the story. The ending of this fine noir fantasy was never in doubt- thanks to the title of the book. And yet....one could always hope.
It was horrifying and simultaneously compulsive to see the whole shebang crank up to its final conclusion.
Profile Image for Myke Cole.
Author 31 books1,736 followers
October 4, 2013
I won't provide spoilers, but I can say this much: Polansky has outstripped himself. She Who Waits crowns an incredible series, improving on one of the strongest foundations in modern fantasy. The Warden speaks for all of us, flawed people, flailing toward redemption without setting aside any of inherent wickedness. Polansky's protagonist breathes and bleeds with such identifiable reality that I missed him every time I put the book down.

Fans of the grimdark movement launched by Brett, Abercrombie, Lawrence and Lynch will love Polansky's work. And so, for that matter, will anyone who likes good books.
Profile Image for Pavle.
413 reviews141 followers
July 13, 2016
Ako me je prva knjiga upoznala sa nečim novim, a druga mi pokazala da i fantastika može (i treba) da te zamisli, treća me je naterala da marim i brinem i besomučno okrećem stranice.

Na to se sve svodi na kraju. Oproštaj od jedne divne trilogije, od jednog divnog lika, na jedan divan način. I nikakva mana to ne može da umanji.

Profile Image for Scott.
385 reviews22 followers
July 5, 2016
The best book ends the series; you really can't ask for much more than that!

I've grown very fond of Polansky's writing style, and the end of the Low Town series cements that fondness. It continues the story of Warden and brings the whole thing to a conclusion that I'm sure fans of the series can be satisfied with.

With these books you're sure to get a heavy dose of cynicism, betrayal, back room deals, and cutting dialogue. You also get to see a man that makes the best of his situations and tries to do best for the few people he loves. It's not often you get to root for a drug dealer who's prone to violence, but I easily rooted for Warden.

Can't wait to dive back into Polansky's worlds
Profile Image for Jeremy Jackson.
121 reviews21 followers
March 20, 2018
I loved this series. One of the finest grimdark trilogies out there - well-written, sharp, unrelenting. Most reviews say each Low Town installment improves upon its predecessor, and that's true, though the second book was my personal favorite. All three are fine examples of fantasy, and fine examples of crime noir.
Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Michael Sliter.
Author 6 books144 followers
July 18, 2018
She Who Waits, aptly named given the afterworldly aspect of this title, is the concluding book of the Low Town trilogy. We follow the Warden as he continues on his self-destructive path toward vengeance. He never quite developed any coping mechanisms outside of drugs and alcohol, and though he briefly gave up some of the harder stuff, he's back on it as memories resurface.

The characterization, particularly the internal dialogue of the Warden, continues to be interesting. We finally get more of his past and an understanding of why he is so self-destructive. He still falters when speaking with others, his dialogue continuously witty and with no substance. I would like to see the serious side, the part of him (aside from his violent nature) that allows him to be taken serious as the lord of the underworld. The constant sarcasm, like the previous books, gets old.

Other characters were once again not fleshed out. I really feel like there was a build up with Wren over the past two books that would come to a head here. He's supposed to have all sorts of powers/potential, and I kept waiting for him to do something with them. But, he never did, and it seemed like a lot of wasted effort to describe these fantasy elements and just never quite use them. The fantasy aspects of this series seemed like an afterthought in general, and it would almost have been better served to leave them out completely.

I seem critical, I know, and was actually torn between a 3 and a 4 for this book. But, the ending did it for me. Ultimately, I would recommend this series to anyone looking for a quick and fun romp through the dirty and drug ridden streets of Low Town.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews255 followers
April 17, 2014

5 Stars

"A handful of times in my life I’d come face to face with She Who Waits Behind All Things, made my peace with the thought of entering the next world."

4 to 5 stars for the series as a whole. Daniel Polansky has created a dark fantasy series that gets better with each book in the series. Warden is our main protagonist but it is difficult to call him our hero, or even our antihero. He is a bad man that just happens to have a bit of a heart and a few people that he cares about. He is a thief, an assassin, and a drug dealer. He has one true love.

"It went on that way for a while. Low Town is a lot of things – the Empire’s dumping grounds, an open-air prison, the beating heart of the city. But it’s also my business, a broken-down engine that needs constant tinkering. Palms to grease, backs to stab. It takes a lot of energy, running in place."

Warden's great love is the star behind this series, and that is the town of Low Town itself. The seedy city gets darker with each book as it plays a bigger and bigger role in the main plot. I loved Low Town. Polansky does an amazing job at creating the details, the smells, and the atmosphere underneath this fictional city. It ranks up there with my very favorite fictional cities like New Crozubon, and Ambergis. Much of what drives Warden is his love for Low Town, he sees himself as the underground king of Low Town.

The writing is fabulous. The dialog is fun. The setting is amazing. Warden is a fun character to route for and he is a real son of a bitch....

"‘Let me tell you something about the future – it isn’t the present. And in the present I’m guaranteeing you that there’s nothing that your supplier will do to you tomorrow that I won’t do to you today, now, right this very moment. Might as well postpone getting dead. When you think about it, isn’t that all we’re ever doing?’"

I loved this book and loved this series. For fans of anti heroes and dark fantasy.

Profile Image for Mark.
486 reviews84 followers
September 1, 2018
What a fantastic ending to a truly grimdark classic series. The entire book was full of of twist and turns, grusome endings, double and triple buffs and all the colours of the rainbow herrings.

highly recommended series to all.
Profile Image for Kostas.
302 reviews32 followers
March 29, 2018

The third and final book culminates the Low Town trilogy in the best way, with Daniel Polansky - showing once more his strong writing and imagination - to takes us deep into the city of Rigus' dark secrets, to its gangs and its instigators, to its scum and its rulers, but also into a story that, combining again the noir with fantasy with his unique style, brings to the surface an ugly past, a filthy case and a long unfulfilled revenge - an adventure as much dark and ugly as ruthless and cruel.

In all his life, Warden is a man who has seen more than his fair share of violence and cruelty, and the last six years, though no less ugly, brought him amid situations that left even more scars on his dark past than before - yet, in Low Town there is always something worse and, when a neighbor - and known drunkard at the bar that he and Adolphus own - comes and tells his about an indescribable murder in the house of Reinhardt, a veteran of the War that fell under the influence of a new drug, he will have to take up this case, in hope of solving it before it’s too late for the next victim.
Turning from den to den, wanting to find the trafficker of this new drug, Warden will begin to search into the gangs of the city of Rigus’ underworld - an investigation that, with the current situation between the gangs having stirred old feuds, will soon put him into their conflicts and skirmishes, and into a bloodshed that may well be without end.
However, when the Sons of Śakra - a new rising organization that has spread its influence from the lower to the highest society - approach him, desiring to hire his ugly skills to help them bring down the leader of Black House and all his corruption once and for all, and not much later the Old Man sets his own filthy schemes, Warden will find himself between two forces that, along with the turmoil amidst the city of Rigus’ underworld, will bring to the surface old enemies that will threaten to take from him everything he built over the years and, if he fails to find a solution and stop them all, his encounter with She Who Waits Behind All Things will be closer than ever!

She Who Waits, in many aspects, is a superior book from its predecessors, but also a book that succeeds at offering much more than before, as - combining all the plots and characters he built in the previous two - Daniel Polansky comes with a story that quickly becomes the most favorite of all.
And, although in the beginning Polansky seems to fall again on the same patterns - and the same mistakes - of Tomorrow, the Killing , he quickly proves that this isn't the case here, showing to have a better handling of the narrative between the past and the present, the characters and the plot, making a story that - through his stellar writing and imagination - once again breaks the tropes of the two genres, and brings an incredible final adventure that manages to give a strong, though bittersweet, conclusion.

However, even with all the above mentioned, what remains unforgettable - and it is without doubt the best part of the series - is not so much writing, nor the adventures, but its protagonist who raised these stories in a much higher level - and here, in the last leg of his adventures, Polansky travels us once more into the Warden’s past, at the time as an Agent of the Crown as we see his rise at the Old Man’s side that made him the second most powerful man across the city of Rigus, and his unexpected fall that brought him to the bottom of the underworld, and in a life much different. A piece of his soul that marked his life, building on his personality in a very special way, and made us to love him even more.

All in all, She Who Waits is a strong final book, with Daniel Polansky closing this series in the best way, bringing us into a mysterious case and a war between the forces of the underworld, but without failing once again to combine two opposite genres and to make - though his astounding writing and his hard protagonist - something wonderfully unique, and to manage to leave us at the end shocked and emotionally heavy as never before.

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Profile Image for The Shayne-Train.
363 reviews90 followers
April 8, 2020
An absolutely fan-fucking-tastic finale to one of the best neo-noir/fantasy series ever. Every bit is so satisfying, the twists and turns of three full books lead you to the only ending possible, even though it's one you'd never have considered.

Profile Image for Saif Bagmar.
97 reviews2 followers
April 22, 2014
Should I say one the finest I have ever read?
You know, I am from a third world country, things are almost exactly as told in this book. I think this is exactly how my country works, add or take some savagery, that's all. My question is, how come a boy from a first world country named Daniel Polansky has pulled it off? Then I guess the whole world is like this, in a less savagery fashion. Again, I know how this world works even though it is a noir fantasy.
People talk of maintaining the system, talk of religion, patriotism, ethics, state security, threats, morality,,, all these are shit. Except your family and friends and the people you love. You know that their ethnicity,, religion,,sometimes even honesty,, things like that don't mean a damn thing to you.
Salute to Daniel Polansky.
Profile Image for Daniel.
753 reviews72 followers
July 31, 2016
Odlican zavrsetak za vrlo zabavnu trilogiju. Jedino sto bi rekao da je kraj malo predvidiv ali put do njega je bio vise nego zabavan.

Jedna od stvari koja mi se svidja je da je svaka knjiga u sustini prica za sebe odnosno mozete citati drugu ili trecu bez prethodne i vecinu stvari ce te pohvatati. I ni jedna se ne zavrsava sa cliff hangeom. Sto je veliki plus.

Znaci ako ocete zabavan grim dark detective noire knjige samo navalite.
Profile Image for Jasper.
419 reviews37 followers
September 26, 2013
Originally posted at: http://thebookplank.blogspot.com/2013/09/she-who-waits.html

She Who Waits is the highly anticipated third book in the Low Town series written by Daniel Polansky. The Low Town series is new and interesting taking in a mystery and noir fantasy series. It all started in the more than sound debut The Straight Razor Cure that introduced us to the Warden, a person with a complicated and rich past, and his story continued in Tomorrow the Killing. The Low Town series so far has been a great pleasure to read, with using the Warden as the main protagonist, they automatically turn out to be cool. And on top of this Daniel Polansky has a way with showing on one hand the dark and gritty side of Low Town, but also shows a more light-hearted side with the humor and witty remarks hidden within several characters. So far in the series there have been a great many of events that have shaped the storyline but one overall element comes forward: is the Warden still tough enough to control Low Town or is his control slowly slipping away?

What I have come to know about the first two books is that Daniel Polansky doesn’t spare the reader one moment. I read a bit of a more light hearted story before She Who Waits and BAM! You are right thrown there in the dregs of Low Town, the dark and gritty feeling directly surrounding you. This is something that I have really come to enjoy in his books. And likewise the first two books you again follow the Warden in She Who Waits. His persona is just as deep and dark as the slums of Low Town. The Warden is a war veteran turned dealer and has an (in)famous reputation in and among Low Town. If you need something done he is the guy to go to. But also the Warden is on a higher level the singular person who tries to keep control on all the situations that arise in Low Town. There is the policing force know as The Black Hand and bit of helpers known as the hoax, but some can be easily bought to look the other way. What I have come to learn about the Warden, is well... a lot but then again also a lot remain obscure and this is one part where the story of Low Town get its strength from. You learn so much about the Wardens past, that he has had quite a difficult time, and how he is getting by now but Daniel Polansky never reveals all. You keep wondering and guessing about certain why’s, if’s and how’s. On top of this the Warden’s personality is quite “diverse”, if he is on your bad side, the Warden is ruthless and unforgiving, but if he is on your good side he is your best ally. Daniel Polansky weaves this great aura surrounding the Warden that makes him a great main protagonist.

Besides the Warden there are many more interesting characters to which we were already introduced to in the first two books and that make a re-appearance in She Who Waits, for starters Wren. A young boy that the Warden took under his wings. Wren has something, a specific power, that keeps me on the edge of my seat. The Art. This the magic of Low Town. Each time I am reading about Wren I have my fingers crossed to just get that small glimpse of the Art. Daniel Polansky keeps this element so well hidden throughout the story, only showing brief glimpses, that you never know what is in store for you. However this time around we do see Wren being more grown up and confident and it is time for him so seek new advice, so it might, might just be that we will see a more pronounced scene with the Art soon. I have my fingers crossed. But back to Wren, when you first got to meet him he was a boyish boy and it seems that the tutelage of the Warden has really shaped him into a grown man and this is notable by the actions and sometimes bad decisions that he makes. Is Warden is a suitable role model? I have my guesses but he sure is as solid as a rock, and it seems that some traits are rubbing off on Wren... Now there is one interesting addition to the story that should really get the fans of this series fired up. An important woman out of the past of the Warden... This was one of the moments I was waiting on. All throughout the book you learn more and more of this person and what she had done to the Warden and this gave me on some levels an satisfied feeling but feels rather like an anticlimax (but I am saying this in a positive way!) since I know there must be more to this and that it isn’t the last part of what we have seen from her. Because even the Warden couldn’t pull through on this one occasion.

The storyline of She Who Waits is just a rich and dark and engaging as the first two. The stories so far in The Straight Razor Cure and Tomorrow the Killing do feel on one part self contained with each time putting the Warden into an investigation to find out what is happening on his turf, they do all have one thread connecting each other and gradually taking the story further. This time isn’t any different, but before hand the story doesn’t fall into some drag at all. Since Daniel Polansky has lain quite the foundation of the Low Town and surrounding areas in the first two books. In She Who Waits, Daniel Polansky now uses this foundation to really take his story and the whole series further. In the first two books it felt that the Warden was more giving the lowdown on Low Town and all that was happening, in She Who Waits, the emphasis is more on the characters and the storyline itself. Daniel Polanksy starts explaining a lot of things that we learned in the earlier books about The Black hand and the Wardens fall from grace and more over that the Warden is starting to lose control of Low Town and that there is only on course left for him and his friends. I was very pleased by this aspect, and really makes me eager to see what else Daniel Polansky will have in store for us in his next book.

Where Tomorrow the Killing already took the Low Town series further, She Who Waits is even more furtherering the series.It really comes to show that Daniel Polansky himself is letting his audience know: This is what I have in store for you, you will either like or not. He is becoming bold, daring and taking risks in his writing that are really paying off storywise. Letting people die. Showing more and more of the past and current events but then again raising a 10fold more questions. She Who Waits does leave you on a cliffhanger moment with the Warden, one of which I hadn’t imagined, with everything that the Warden embodies... this was totally unexpected. In a good way that is. What Daniel Polanksy proved in The Straight Razor Cure and Tomorrow the Killing is further emboldened by She Who Waits, if you aren’t reading his books, you are sorely missing out.

Profile Image for Tracey the Lizard Queen.
250 reviews40 followers
December 7, 2015
Polansky definitely saved the best for last, while I liked Low Town and Tomorrow The Killing, I loved She Who Waits. The writing is a great deal better, it's dark and descriptive and surprisingly funny. I often found myself laughing out loud at the Warden's opinions on Low Town and it's, er, delightful inhabitants.

The only issue I had was the three separate timelines, not that it was confusing or anything, just causes the book to not flow as well. Other than that minor point it's one of the finest books I've read this year. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for John McDermott.
373 reviews47 followers
August 16, 2020
A very bleak ending to what has been a fantastic series. I loved it though! Daniel Polansky is an excellent writer who creates characters you care about. She Who Waits is a very dark book indeed and reads like a fantasy version of Get Carter( a classic British crime thriller from the 70's starring Michael Caine). If you like the idea of a gritty crime thriller in a fantasy setting then this whole series is a must read. Highly recommended.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,043 followers
June 4, 2018
I've tried to get into this book a couple times this year but can't get excited about it. I definitely want to finish the trilogy though, so I'll be picking this novel up later.
Profile Image for Allan Walsh.
Author 17 books72 followers
June 30, 2019
She Who Waits by Daniel Polansky follows Warden on a murder investigation in the ghetto known as Low Town. An investigation that turns out to be far more involved that it first appears.

The Cover: The cover is professional and works for the genre. I picked it as a fantasy/dark fantasy title.

The Good Stuff: The writing is competent and there are a few great lines in this title, along with a few twists and turns in the plot. I did enjoy the characters although there were some issues noted in the bad stuff below. I really enjoyed the grittiness of the world setting and the mix of social groups

The Bad Stuff: For me the biggest issue is a personal preference. I really do not enjoy 1st person POV, it puts me on the back foot straight away. Coupled with the story initially coming across as a kind of historical crime novel set in the late 17th or early 18th century, it took a while to get into. At the end of the book I was still a little confused on the time period, but then it is fantasy and I’m happy to accept that it may just be set in its own time period. While I enjoyed the characters, they were introduced with an info dump of description. I also didn’t believe the main character was consistent with his background. I haven’t read the previous books in this series, and it may be explained in those, but Warden grew up on the streets, a pick pocket and spotter, running scams, taking drugs, beating people up. Yet his vocabulary is far superior to what I would expect of someone with his background. I would never expect a character like this to use words such as gregarious, ruminations, or hedonistic, and these are just a few examples.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the characters, but I came away a little unsatisfied. Probably a combination of my personal preference and a few little niggles with the author’s style. This is a 3.5 star book for me, but as I can only deal in whole numbers, I’m giving it a back-stabbing, dirt stained 4 out of 5 golden bookmarks.
Profile Image for RG.
3,089 reviews
February 17, 2017
Couldn't fault this series. The Warden would have to be one of my fav characters. Cant wait for Polanskys new works.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
473 reviews15 followers
December 15, 2018
The third and final instalment of Low Town was probably the darkest so far. So, I think a warning for this whole series is in order: this is not your usual dark fantasy with a likable antihero doing mostly nice stuff. This world is violent and brutal and there is no being nice.

“Low Town [city district] is a lot of things – the Empire’s dumping grounds, an open-air prison, the beating heart of the city.”

The author has an excellent way of lulling you into thinking a guy is safe, only to have him brutally kill someone. However, the author also does not use violence for violence sakes (e.g. gory descriptions or celebration of violence), but instead uses it to be critical about our social and political systems.

“The war had done mad things to everyone, broken most of those it hadn’t killed, turned stout men into drunks and quiet boys into murderers”

In the end, I think these socio-critical, spot-on passages were what I liked most about this series. The plots were all interesting enough to have my interest, but were a bit too full of testosterone and absolutely none of the 3 books pass the Bechdel-test. However, I thought the ending of the series very fitting and thus will round up my 3.5 stars.

Finally, one thing that still keeps me guessing since the first book that unfortunately remained unsolved:
Profile Image for Caleb Hill.
69 reviews
September 29, 2013
“It’s only at the end of things that you come to any appreciation for what you’ve let slide by.”

I have only read one other book this year with an ending so enthralling. Its name is Republic of Thieves.

About a month back, a genre review website launched the exclusive cover reveal for this book, to which I responded by contacting the publisher for the quickest ARC I’ve ever requested. Just look at the cover. Doesn’t it make you want to jump right in, blood and scary woman aside?

Problem is, I let it sit there for a while, let it grow and fester in my brain. Soon, it became a whisper in the back of my mind. Read me...

Read me…

But I couldn’t. I had to save it.

Suffice to say, I nearly cracked. BUT… it became my treat. What was the occasion, you say? Why, I finished the first draft of my book.

And then I proceeded to devour one of the best books of the year.

A few years have passed, and the Warden’s back. He’s called in to a murder turned suicide, left aghast at both of the corpses. However, he knows there’s a game afoot. A new drug is on the market, something linked to his past with Black House. People are distributing this narcotic without knowing its full effects. And Warden can’t let that slide. Others think like him, people he detests, fanatics and hicks. However, it’s when he learns there’s another key player that the pieces begin to fall into place.

Albertine is back in Low Town, and she’s waiting.

The woman was mentioned in passing in the first book, and is finally shown in the last. Think Sabetha in Scott Lynch’s third book, all the build-up we’ve had from her, the femme fatale character type, and the cause of the protagonist’s fall, then make her worse. Much worse.

While Sabetha is Locke’s rival, Albertine is the Warden’s enemy. There is no romantics. This is no game. He’s fighting for his life, not just a win.

Oh, and the Old Man wants her too, if that’s any consolation. Unfortunately, our cynical and sarcastic narrator can’t have that.

This book has the slowest build-up of the three, and for three hundred pages, I was a little hesitant. Polansky makes up for this big time by giving me what I’ve always been waiting for: A realization that the Warden truly is the King of Low Town. Nowhere else does this ring truest. We go from conversations with an old master pickpocket to negotiations between gangs to outright threats toward the highest in the land. We see how he became the crime lord. He walks the streets, his streets, with a head held high, even when the bodies begin to pile up in his neighborhood.

“’I hope for your sake that the people who make your decisions aren’t operating under that misimpression. Low Town is mine. Every broke-down whore shaking her ass on a midnight thoroughfare is keeping her eyes out for me, every lost youth leaps at the chance to do me a favor, every thug fingering his knife shivers when he hears my name, and makes sure to stay on the right side of it. The bricks in the street, the cracks in the wall, the smog and the smoke, the shit in the canal – I snap my fingers and an army rises up from the muck…There ain’t nothing here worth having – but by the Firstborn and every one of his siblings, there isn’t a man alive who’ll take it from me.’”

For the longest of time, the Warden has always seemed to be a single entity, a hard criminal functioning alone in his little territory. But for some strange reason, Polansky breathes depth and a final click here. It’s exactly what the plodding pace needed to give me a great time.

Making this book better is the prose. It’s no surprise that I love Polansky’s writing. I adore it. If I could have a shred of his talent, I would sacrifice chickens. She Who Waits has the most confident prose I’ve seen in a while, sharp, brutal, and amazing. There’s less introspection than the first two, but oh well. I can deal with it. The dark humor more than makes up for this.

However, the plot is a little less tighter than I enjoy. While not necessarily a bad thing, we do tend to hop from place to place early on. It works in the mystery department, but I’m not exactly sold on the endeavor. Two thirds of the way through, and I feel we’re stumbling. The Warden’s plan is coming together nicely, but the pieces aren’t connecting. It’s not enough. I argued with myself because of this. I lost faith in the writer.

Polansky blew me away because of my doubts.

If there is one certainty, it is that Polanksy can write an intelligent novel.

Never before have I upped the rating of a book by one point because of the final hundred pages. I’ve knocked it down before, sure, but never up. If the novel was great up until then, it became amazing afterward, and that’s no light statement like I usually throw around. This was hands down one of the best endings to a novel I have ever read. It makes the book.

My only complaint is that I wanted more. I wanted to see Adolphus and his good humor again. I wanted another conversation with Li Ching. More than anything, I wanted more flashbacks. They made the beginning great, the time spent smoking in the rain, even if they were few and far between.

But that’s details.

A bigger one might be a scene that I would contest could be a modern classic. The last talk with the Old Man was breathtaking, atmospheric, and, to quote a cliché, amazing. A favorite of mine, for sure.

And stronger than this is the character arc of one great kid, Wren. He started off as a sullen urchin in Low Town, grew into a kid with the Art in book 2. Here, he’s coming of age, becoming a man under a criminal, and I love it. The characters are the bread and butter of his story.

Even if the brooding sense of finality reached its end, I was still enamored after the last page had been turned. Polansky made me want to hunt him down and kill him. He made me want to force the man to continue typing away. I can’t wait for what’s next, unlike the title.

This is one of the best books released in 2013, and one of the best reads of the year. While it does have its faults, I can say that this author has finally become a favorite of mine, if that wasn’t evident beforehand.

Daniel Polansky solidified his standing in the genre as one not to look out for, but one to always be on the watch for his next move. There is no doubt in my mind that She Who Waits is Fantasy Noir at its finest.

“They’ll deceive you, those stutter steps into the abyss. You get to thinking the descent goes on indefinitely. Everything ends.”

*I received this ARC for my honest review*
Profile Image for Oldman_JE.
42 reviews14 followers
December 14, 2022
The concluding volume, with its friction among the parties and all the designs coming to a head, has rendered me inchoate.

Those that liked Priest of Bones should enjoy this series. Those that loved PoB must read it. Trust me.
Profile Image for Matt Gilliard.
75 reviews13 followers
December 26, 2013
My review of the final Lowtown novel is likely to be the shortest review I've ever written for a novel I enjoyed so thoroughly. I loved the preceeding two volumes of the Lowtown trilogy and was both excited and saddened to know that my time with the one of the most unredeemable and yet most compelling protagonists I've ever encountered was coming to a close. Polansky has been labelled as a 'writer's writer' by folks with far more education and experience than I, but I would go one step further and say that these novels are perfectly suited to any reasonably well read person who isn't likely to be put off by a novel that takes a long, unflinching flinching look at the darkest parts of society and human nature. These books aren't easy to read, they are violent and profane with hardly a decent person in sight, but they are so compellingly well written and so deft in their observations about the cold facts of human nature that it's a definite shame they haven't found a wider audience.

But to get to the specifics of She Who Waits, this final volume takes place six years after the last installment. Warden and all of the other principles introduced in the series are getting older, and most none too gracefully. Warden is still doing what he does best, running his criminal enterprise from the shadows and sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong. The kingdom is on the verge with powerful forces angling for control of a weak monarchy and Warden quickly finds himself planted firmly on top of a powder keg. Being manipulated by his former employer, the secret police of Black House, while he manipulates them in turn, Warden is drawn into a dangerous game of uncertain allegiances and deadly stakes once more. Complicating matters is the reemergance of only woman he ever loved, the person responsible for his fall from the halls of power. With the lives of his loved ones hanging in the balance, it seems doubtful even the crafty Warden can escape the coming explosion unscathed.

As always, Polansky's prose is the star of the show. Tight and poetic, gritty and somehow beautiful the musings of Warden are certain to stick with you well past the final pages. Warden is no angel, and is simply struggling to do right by the people he loves, at piece with the contradictions of his hedonistic and wicked ways. That dicotomy is the secret to Warden's success as a protagonist. Readers may not like him, but they'd be hard pressed not to understand him. As tired and weary as he is in this final volume, Warden's wit is still razor and readers will find themselves chuckling even in the novel's darkest moments. Fans of the grimdark movement will find much to enjoy in Polansky's protagonist.

Those who have read the preceeding volumes, will certainly not be surprised by the twist and turns of the plot and Warden's often inscrutable maneuverings as he fights the long odds again. But as always, all is eventually made clear and then we're off to the races as the novel reaches its unavoidably brutal climax. There are flashbacks to Warden's past, though they seem to take up far less space in this volume. I would have liked more back story, but didn't feel cheated at all. We are given exactly what the story demands and nothing more. As with the end of most series, there is death and betrayal and reversals of fortune. I felt that some of the deaths were robbed of their significance and emotional impact, but having such a tight narrative focus and the framing of the take, there really was no way an observant reader couldn’t have seen it coming.

In many ways, She Who Waits delivers exactly what fans of the series have come to expect and the end while perhaps disappointing to some should come as no surprise. I personally would have felt cheated with anything less than the eventual outcome. Polansky has managed to create a world and character that will live in my mind beyond the confines of the story, and he wisely leaves us wanting more. Polansky remains one of the most undervalued writers in fantasy today
Profile Image for Laura Hughes.
Author 5 books254 followers
November 7, 2013
'She Who Waits' is the third instalment in Daniel Polansky’s Low Town series, and seemingly rounds off this particular trilogy about the life of Warden. It’s a thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable read that takes all the elements we’ve come to love about the series – grimy settings, disreputable characters, casual vice, fascinating flashbacks and wicked schemes – and multiplies them by ten to create a convoluted but fast-paced plot leading to an explosive and heart-stopping conclusion.

As with the author’s previous novels ('The Straight Razor Cure' and 'Tomorrow the Killing') the story follows the character of Warden, a disgraced former soldier and Black House operative who is now a drug dealer. Not only does he practically run Low Town, but he also secretly manoeuvres critical events within politics, not to his own advantage, but to the disadvantage of those who have previously caused him harm. Most of the characters he encounters are despicable in varying ways, their negative attributes brilliantly exaggerated to the point of grotesqueness. Low Town and its denizens are ugly, inside and out, and this makes those rare moments of goodness or peace experienced by Warden all the more striking.

One thing I will point out is that there’s not really that much emphasis on Albertine, the woman who betrayed him years ago and is therefore partly responsible for the way his life has turned out since. However, I don’t think the novel suffers from this, since the focus of the series has always been on Warden’s decisions in the present rather than his dwelling on the past; and, of course, the title is clever, referring not just to his lost love but to the goddess of death, commonly known as ‘She who Waits Behind All Things’. And that’s a pretty apt title, since the novel’s events are set against the usual Low Town backdrop of frequent violence and murder.

In a nutshell: the dialogue is gritty and facetious, the protagonists are tough and easy to root for, the plot is clever and brilliantly executed, and the final awesome culmination of events leaves us feeling wretched yet satisfied. It's great.
Profile Image for KC Alexander.
11 reviews
December 23, 2013
I finally managed to get my copy of Daniel Polansky's She Who Waits and couldn't put it down. He wows me again. Rigus is more vivid than ever; its crowded, labyrinthine slums reek of human corruption that leaps off the page. Polansky’s masterful prose plumbs the depths of depravity and desperation, exploring the darkness intrinsic to all, regardless of socioeconomic stratum. Whether drunks, drug-addicts, zealots, police, or political leaders, the expertly drawn characters elicit the reader’s emotional investment—their motivations are relatable and sympathetic.

By this point in the series, the Warden is ostensibly too jaded to be bothered with the petty feuds around him, but as he draws closer to his own inevitable appointment with She Who Waits Behind All Things, we see him struggle to settle accounts and do right by those closest to him, even if that means watching the world burn.

Polansky’s singular style shines in the Warden’s dialogic interaction with both reader and character, providing insight and levity. The protagonist’s one-liners show that his wit is still sharp and break up some of the darker scenes; his tête-à-tête with members of the new faction of religious zealots provides particularly humorous interaction.

This noir fantasy firmly rests within the grimdark classification popularized by Abercrombie, Weeks, Lawrence and Brett et al. As such, no character is safe from his or her own encounter with She Who Waits, a daevas of Rigun mythology who greets the recently deceased. I've seen it said that Mr. Polansky is a writer's writer and agree whole-heartedly with that sentiment. For those highly critical of the craft, this trilogy and especially She Who Waits is worth the hassle of tracking down a copy and will not disappoint. Like any good suitor, Mr. Polansky left me utterly satisfied yet eager for more.
Profile Image for Učitaj se!.
666 reviews107 followers
June 5, 2015
Zaista odličan završetak ovog zaista odličnog serijala! Mogli biste me, doduše, nazvati malčice pristranom, jer jako volim ovaj žanr - fantasy noir - a tako ga malo ima u hrvatskom prijevodu.

Budući da knjige u ovoj trilogiji nisu striktno povezane radnjom, svaku je knjigu moguće čitati zasebno. Postoje, doduše neki dijelići radnje u drugoj i trećoj knjizi u kojima se Warden prisjeća nekog lika ili situacije iz ranijih romana, zbog čega bih vam ipak preporučila da s čitanjem krenete po redu.

Finale trilogije donosi nam još jednu zasebnu priču, no za razliku od ranija dva nastavka ovaj je puno više orijentiran na samog Wardena i njegovu prošlost koja se ponovno pojavljuje u njegovoj sadašnjosti tražeći naplatu svih dugova. Puno pitanja i detalja o Wardenovoj prošlosti ovdje će napokon biti otkriveno, pogotovo oni dijelovi koji se odnose na njegovu povezanost sa Starcem i Crnom kućom. I sam Grad sjena u ovom romanu kao da dosiže neku točku kulminacije, nakon koje mu je budućnost neizvjesna - ili će opstati, ili će propasti. Sudbine Wardena i Grada sjena kao da su povezane, a ovaj roman je ovdje da nam otkrije u kolikoj su mjeri te sudbine povezane i kako njihova priča završava - po meni, očekivano, logično i smisleno, ali uz 'prasak' - baš onako kako je i trebala završiti.

Duža recenzija je na FB stranici.
Profile Image for Chompa.
667 reviews53 followers
November 17, 2015
My two word review is "Holy Shit!"

I can't really talk about this book because I want people to read all three of the books. I want people to travel down those same dark alleys of Low Town that I've traveled. I want them to find out why the Warden is the way he is. I want them to see the good he does while at the the same time being a ruthless bastard. I want them to say aloud, "Oh no." in quiet, but horrified voice.

Polanksy - that was seriously fantastic. Please write a shit-ton more?
Profile Image for Joel.
624 reviews229 followers
February 20, 2015
Polansky's prose is, quite frankly, among my favorite in all of fantasy. The characters, tone and setting he created for this series was phenomenal, and this was an extremely satisfying ending to the series.
Profile Image for Neil.
121 reviews30 followers
March 15, 2015
perfect ending to three fantastic books.
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