Review: UNDER ORDSHAW by Phil Williams

Publisher: Self-Published
Page Count: 304
Release Date: May 24th, 2018
Series: ORDSHAW, Book 1
Rating: 3/5 Stars – Liked it!

Note: I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in return for my fair and honest review.

40092074._sy475_Everything was looking up for Pax Kuranes until her healthy winnings from her last poker game were stolen by a young man in a bar. In her quest to find him and get her money back, Pax accidentally stumbles into the path of Casaria, a man who works for a secretive government agency.  Soon, Pax realizes she’s entangled herself in a conspiracy to hide a world of supernatural creatures living under the city of Ordshaw, in a collection of tunnels known as the Sunken City. Even worse, she’s acquired an item of interest to both human and supernatural entity alike – and neither side particularly cares if Pax is alive or dead, so long as they get the item.

UNDER ORDSHAW is an intriguing urban fantasy adventure.  Pax is a solid lead, a scrappy woman just trying to make rent, who is suddenly in way over her head.  She’s the kind of character that grows from simply wanting to wash her hands of everything and not die, to willingly rushing into danger to give others a chance to escape. Opposite her is Casaria, a man whose approach to the creatures under Ordshaw (sapient or not) is mass extermination, and who is constantly frustrated by the bureaucracy that won’t let him act on instincts he genuinely believe is for the good of humanity.  He’s definitely not a good guy; he’s the kind of character you want on your side simply to make sure his aggression is pointing anywhere but yourself.  Rounding out the cast is Letty, a denizen of the underground tunnels who becomes an unlikely partner with Pax, and Barton, a man with past ties to the tunnels who is drawn back into a life he tried to leave behind.  Every character feels distinct, and watching these storylines and conflicting interests come crashing together were the best parts of the book.

Where I felt a little more adrift was the world-building as a whole. Part of this is due to the fact that the first part of the book is largely Pax trying to figure out what on earth she’s stumbled into.  References to the Sunken City and what lives there are obtuse, even when switched to other POVs; I found myself wishing this section where shorter and the central conceit gotten to sooner.  The plot also hinges on events that happened nearly a decade ago, events I never felt got satisfactorily explained or explored.  I wanted to know more about Barton and his past life; we got fragmented bits of the story, but I was still a unclear on his full connection to the Sunken City.

That being said, once Pax is introduced to the stakes and the players, the story moves at a good clip.  Letty is a character that is a bit grating at first, but becomes a fierce ally, and watching her work is a lot of fun.  I also appreciated that Pax is a character who survives by her wits instead of brawn, finding ways to distract other characters or play them off one another.  UNDER ORDSHAW is an entertaining urban fantasy for those who like to imagine a hidden world just underneath our own.

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