Hard Times in Dragon City by Matt Forbeck

In one of the extra bits at the back of the book this series of books is described by the author as high fantasy written by a crime noir author. I think that is pretty apt. The City is called Dragon City because the ruler is, you guessed it a Dragon. Imagine a city that spirals around a mountain with the Imperial Palace at the top and as you go further up the mountain the prosperity of the inhabitants grows. Now picture this mountain surrounded by a huge wall that holds back the never-ending undead horde that is constantly seeking a way in to the city and you more or less get the world building side of this book.

Leaving the city without permission is punishable by death (if the undead horde do not kill you). Undead tombs have lots of old and valuable worldly possessions. This means that parties of adventurers are  willing to risk certain death for a shot at wealth. The hero of this book Max Gibson used to be one of those adventurers. Now he is more of a brow-beaten detective “assisting” the haughty Elven city guard. When an entire family of Max’s friends are slaughtered he gets drawn in to the investigation and has to try and deal with a skilled and determined assassin as well as his own past relationships  both romantic and friendly.

For me this is the kind of Forbeck novel I enjoy most. At around 50k words it will not take you long to read, especially with the pace this story barrels along.  I think more stories could do with being slimmed down like this. Too many books these days seem to have words for the sake of having words. This book does not waste a single word. If it doesn’t serve a direct purpose it will not be found in this book. Interestingly though it still manages to set-up the second book in the series.

I like interesting little extras at the end of books. This one is quite fascinating. If you want to know what was the only thing to slow down the prodigious Forbeck word count machine then you will have to read to the end of this book. There is also a section on the origins of this story and how it relates to role-playing games.

This book is well worth a read and I can’t wait for the second one.

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