Tourniquet by Kim Lakin-Smith

July 18, 2011

Renegade City. Futurist Gothika. Mecca of the damned. Where uber rock-band, Origin, is deified and the world’s dark sub-cultures coexist under the umbrella faith of ‘Belief’.

But Roses, the great, Gothic messiah is dead, the tribes are in turmoil, and Renegade’s own home-bred rebels, the Drifters, are quickly becoming a law unto themselves.

The last thing that Druid, Origin’s drummer and reclusive high lord of the Drathcor, wants to do is hunt his brother’s killer, especially since he’s not sure of foul play, or even the purity of his motives. Against all of his expectations, however, he is soon embroiled with the underbelly of dissension, dirty politics, and a non-believer as jaded with Renegade’s great and secret show as he is – a black-eyed girl named Jezebel. 

Druid is tasked with saving the whole city. Street punk, Jezebel will settle for saving her on brother. Ever since Harish in touch with his inner-animal and left her with the scars to prove it, she has made her quest to return him to the fold. One bleak winter’s night, she succeeds in tracking him to the festering Gothic ruin of the south watchtower, home to the very same ghosts that Druid is chasing, and Harish’s new family. Trouble is, they’re a violent breed. 

Druid is the book’s main protagonist and the reader follows him as he stalks the city streets trying to discover the identity of his brother’s killer. He is a man very much at odds with his surroundings. In the past, with the other members of Origin, he had helped to create a new template for living. It becomes clearer as the story unfolds that Renegade City is collapsing in on itself. The society that was once a beacon of acceptance and understanding, is now inflexible and corrupt. Druid sees this failure everywhere he looks and the responsibility of this weighs heavy on his shoulders. There is a palpable sense of his despair on every page. I was engrossed by his journey. He is wrapped up in his loss and regret.

The members of the various tribes that Druid meets as he continues his search are a lot of fun. From the animalistic, brutal Skinwalkers and the information peddling Trawlers to the gothic DarkLed and magic welding CastClan all the different faces of the city are represented. The sparks that fly between Druid and Jezebel are particularly enjoyable. Druid hasn’t been challenged by anyone in a long time, and coming into contact with Jezebel’s idiosyncratic nature forces him to re-evaluate everything he knows.

The writing is strong throughout. I was very quickly entranced by the rich, vivid descriptions of the city streets, every seemed deliciously decadent and lush. The sleazy, neon-fuelled clubs and eclectic society are present on every street corner. The author has an almost visual writing style that lends itself well to describing all the various locations and cliques. Meanwhile the reader is also given the opportunity to catch a glimpse the city’s dark underbelly, in the shadows we see various factions vie for power and control.

It would be wrong, however, to think this is as just one part murder mystery and one part political thriller in a futuristic setting. There are some great action set pieces including a bike race where the author obviously gets to indulge her passion for huge motorcycles. There is also insightful discussion into the very nature of individuality and self. Just how far will someone go to belong? Does the membership of a particular group define us? What does it mean to really be an outsider? Lakin-Smith deftly weaves these elements together to create a tale that works on many levels.

I didn’t realise when I bought the book but it turns out that I live only a couple of miles away from the very streets that the author has taken her inspiration from. Admittedly they aren’t exactly the same as described in the novel but I have visited many of the places where the blueprints to Renegade City lie. This was a truly unexpected bonus as it only helped to make the book come even more to life for me.

The one thing I was a little disappointed about was that when I reached the novel’s end I couldn’t help but feel that was still more left to tell. The novel ended quite abruptly and for me it still felt as though there were questions that had been left unanswered, other stories left untold. Perhaps there will be more tales from Renegade City in the future? I certainly hope so. I enjoyed my time spent in this stylised neo-Gothic playground and appreciated the opportunity to witness Kim’s dark vision of a futuristic Nottingham.

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