Released late in 2018, Fallible Justice, by Laura Laakso, is still one of the best urban fantasy novels I’ve read. Ever. As such, I thought it the perfect book to be the first review to go on to the Strange Angel website.
It was Laasko’s debut novel and is the first in an excellent series that now runs to four novels. I’m such a big fan, it’s on my list of must-read urban fantasy novels.
Fallible Justice Summary
A paranormal crime drama set in Old London, where the magical rub shoulders with normal humanity. Private investigator Yannia Wilde is tasked to clear a man of murder. The problem being that an infallible Herald of Justice has declared him guilty.
Yannia is one of the ‘Wilde folk’ who has left her rural community to live in London. She is aided by Karrion, a bird shaman who acts as her apprentice.
As they work together on their impossible task, they guide the reader through a world of Fey, Mages and Shaman.
Fallible Justice is a unique novel and one that announces its author as a rare talent. Below are some of the aspects of the work that make the novel such a fine read:
Clever world building
When introducing a fantasy world, it’s easy for the author to fall into the trap of giving too much exposition. Instead, Laasko is subtle in her introduction of the different rules, customs and characters of Old London.
Each new aspect of the world is only released as it pertains to the story or the character. The reader never feels lost in this world, but it still retains its mystery.
Poetic writing style
‘I am running through the wilderness and the wilderness runs through me.’
The above is a good example of Laasko’s righting style. It’s direct, yet magical. The author mixes short staccato sentences with occasional florid touches. Presenting an Old London that feels as real as London itself yet, at the same time, completely magical.
Yannia: An intriquing detective
Yannia is not a hard-bitten noir detective in the mould of Philip Marlowe or even the standard urban fantasy variation on this trope, like Phillip Dresden. She has hints of a dark past, a past she carries with her, but it does not define her. Nor has it made her misanthropic.
She is also dealing with a medical condition that causes her great pain. Throughout the novel, Yannia struggles through this as well as the other obstacles in her way. Living her life and doing her job despite all of the forces against her.
An interesting depiction of magic
Writing about magic is tough to get right. Make it too unfathomable, and it becomes an annoying dues E machina. Where the characters use it to get themselves out of any fix the writer wants them to. Be too proscribed and it becomes boring.
Fallible Justice treads this fine line beautifully. The magic is otherworldly and beyond our ken. Yet there are rules and regulations about its use, both in the sense that magic has its limits and that the laws of the land regulate magic users.
Fallible Justice is a crime drama. So the mystery must keep the reader engaged and keeps them thinking.
It’s a fair criticism to say that the underlying mystery isn’t the most complex. Yet Laasko adds enough subterfuge and intrigue to keep the reader turning the pages throughout.
All in all, Fallible Justice is one of the best, yet under-appreciated novels in the urban fantasy Genre. If you haven’t read it, rejoice, because you have a treat ahead of you.