Poison City


Are There Lesbians?

What Happens?
Gideon Tau is going to find the man who killed his daughter, even if he has to bring about the end of the world to do so.

The Verdict:
Apparently I have a thing for novels about wise-cracking supernatural dudes who fight various mythological characters and have a talking dog as a sidekick. That’s not specific at all right? But seriously, I do really love a good urban fantasy with modern-day gods and spirits etc and Poison City delivers that in spades. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a book this much – I absolutely powered through it and couldn’t put it down even though I knew I had uni work to do. I even stayed up til late on a work night to keep reading (sure it was anxiety keeping me awake, but it’s all about the books here people!).

Poison City is a reasonably bog-standard urban fantasy/crime thriller and doesn’t really break too much ground on the queer diversity scale. It is set in South Africa however, so there is plenty of ethnic diversity (especially if we begin to include the orisha who come from all over). I can’t really say for anyone else who has read this, because I haven’t asked, but the only person who I really think of as white is Tau’s boss Armitage, and that’s basically because she reminds me of Judy Dench as M. That’s another thing though – there are plenty of female characters who manage to be totally badass. I personally find that these types of stories do have a bit of trouble with relegating female characters to sidekick or love interest roles without much investment into actual character building but Poison City has a healthy smattering of female characters without too much stereotyping. As in the description – Tau is almost obsessively searching for his daughter’s murderer and while there are myriad issues there, I didn’t find this dynamic as exhaustive as it could have been and it is presented through the lens of losing a child rather than through a creepy daddys-little-girl dynamic, which can happen a lot. While it is part of the overarching plot, it did get shunted to the side when work had to get done so you’re not quite banging your head against a wall while simultaneously feeling like a bit of an asshole because you want him to just get over it.

All of that’s well and good but by this point you’re probably thinking that it’s not really enough to keep one up to the wee hours of the night reading, anxiety or no. So what is? Orisha. Traditionally manifestations of All Father in Yoruba Religion, in Poison City orisha is used as a catch-all to describe all supernatural beings – from the Christian God and his Angels to Vampires and Faeries to Anansi the Spider God and other local deities. To a story that could have easily just included western classical deities in another setting, the local orisha add a certain level of flavour, and a hell of a lot of interest. I’m a big mythology person and while it pains me to admit it, I have a big knowledge gap in right about the area where Poison City is set, so while I could recognise a Seraphim before it was explicitly named (and there are a few of them in here) the rest was a mystery, and I love anything that encourages wider research. My only issue where they’re concerned is that relatively early on Tau makes a deal with a river goddess to get her favour… this is promptly forgotten about until the climax of the novel but hey, what can you do?

There is a trigger warning I have to put out – there’s a chapter with basically a murder orgy which does involve non-consenting people and kids and is all around stomach-churning and if you are understandably put off by this you might want to skip that chapter (it has a pretty obvious lead up and while there is some important plot information given you could probably get the gist of it pretty easily). Nothing is described in excruciating detail, thank god, but what you do get is enough, so I figure I should let you all know.

Yikes this review has gotten long. Let me sum up – read Poison City, it’s fun, the whole world is at stake and there’s an alcoholic dog whose first words are something along the lines of “You forgot the sherry dipshit.”



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