One Foot in the Fade (Fetch Phillips Archive #3) Book Review
Read from 04/27/2021 - 05/12/2021
It's been almost two years since I read the second book of Luke Arnold's Fetch Phillips Archives. Oh, how time simultaneously flies and crawls in the Age of Covid. Despite having read them what feels like eons ago, my enjoyment of the first two books made One Foot in the Fade an instant pre-order and day one read for me. And after finishing, I'm happy to say that Luke Arnold has done it again.
The Fetch Phillips Archives is consistent in the best of ways. For two books now, Luke Arnold has steadily increased the quality of his work, upped the ante of his craft, making for sequels that are better than their predecessors.
Oftentimes, blessings are hidden within curses, and Fetch Phillips is a prime example of this. His harrowing decision to kill his former mentor in order to save the city he loves has invigorated the detective, giving him a new purpose and lease on life. He's not just content saving the bones of Sunder, its factories, its bricks, its newfangled contraptions, but its soul, the indescribable quality that drew him to the city all those years ago. Fetch Phillips is out to bring the magic back and he's given up the bottle and gotten a fancy new plaque in front of his office to prove it. It's not easy chasing breadcrumbs hoping to find a way to reverse the apocalypse, but soon, he finds a miracle at his feet. Angels haven't been able to take flight since the Coda. So how is one dead after falling from the sky? Like any good gumshoe, he follows the trail. And like any good gumshoe in a good story, he finds himself stumbling onto something much bigger. Something that might just wake up the magic from its slumber…
Once again, one of the first things you'll notice about this book compared to its predecessor is that it’s bigger in scope. This time, we're treated to a full-on adventure the likes we haven't seen. It makes the story feel grandiose and gives the stakes more weight. Like last time, I have to acknowledge that this change of scope could turn some fans away. After all, if you signed up for a lowkey, city-level noir affair, you might feel betrayed by the change in direction. My biggest counterpoint to this is that while the plot might deviate from noir, the tone certainly doesn't. No matter where he is, Fetch sounds like a hardboiled detective and his voice informs the book. Whether a chapter takes place in a noisy dive bar or on a tranquil forest floor, Fetch's realism-bordering-on-cynicism makes it hard not to envision this story in black-and-white, with the characters speaking in a weird, unplaceable accent. Though, of course, your mileage will vary and I certainly get wanting a smaller scope. Personally, it's a change I don't mind.
A change that most can agree is for the better is the treatment of characters. I'm pleased to say that the cast is stronger. While Fetch is still the center of the narrative, the supporting characters were engrossing. I wouldn't go far as to say they were done poorly before, but they really come alive here and I can really feel their chemistry with Fetch when I couldn't quite before (in the first book's case, this was moreso because a lot of the story was dedicated to flashbacks).
Khay is the strongest addition in terms of new characters, with an intoxicating level of wit that bounces off of Fetch's own snark well. She's both a great source of levity and drama. I also loved the friendship between her and Fetch and how it stayed strictly platonic throughout. It's a small thing, yet it's notable since it's something you don't always see.
Fetch's neighbor Georgio, a former mystic who has since set up a diner is another treat, bouncing off of Fetch well with advice that the gruff P.I. often takes for granted.
You might be noticing a pattern here.
The book is concerned with friendship in a way its predecessors weren't, introducing us to new dynamics and giving us a deeper delve into the interesting psyche of Fetch. Fetch's mind, how he perceives the world and wrestles with his place in it, informs a big part of the theme which presents the idea of dealing with trauma and disaster. Is it worth fighting for the great things you once had even if you're perfectly content with what you have now? A more difficult question to ponder is if it's your place to dictate if it's right for someone else to give up a fight. Given the current state of the world, these are important questions to ask. The questions that this book, and indeed, The Fetch Phillips Archives as a whole raise are a prime example of why fantasy shouldn't be written off in favor of narrative fiction — it explores the pressing issues of our world in an engaging matter.
The only real weakness this book has is that it's somewhat predictable. I'm usually not the type of person who can guess where a story's going — not being the sharpest knife in the crayon box has its perks. But even as a deadly-yet-dull-weapon-inappropriately-placed-in-a-drawing-utensil-container, I could see the plot and character trajectory from miles upon miles away. This is definitely the type of story you read for the journey rather than the destination; I can't help but forgive the predictability because Arnold, once again gives us a very fun story. Fetch's dry wit injects an already colorful world with even more charm and it's hard not to enjoy the exciting setpieces of the adventure he goes on
. But beyond being fun, One Foot in the Fade is heartfelt. Even if you know where Fetch's character is heading, the path to getting there is really touching. Astoundingly, the latch stretch of this book is even more raw than Dead Man in a Ditch’s.
This isn't to say there are no surprises to be had, though. Though you might be able to guess the big picture of One Foot in the Fade, the little details might just surprise you. Arnold makes very liberal use of Chekhov's Gun in this story and the way details that seem only employed for world and character-building will crop up later in a major way was always fun.
One Foot In the Fade might not blow your mind, but it continues to prove that Luke Arnold is a narrative force to be reckoned with. This has been my favorite book in the series so far and I can't wait to see where Arnold takes us next.