Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams

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We have another one of Phil William’s books in our SPFBO grouping and Kristen is going to be reading that one later – this is not the SPFBO book, it was a book on my review request list. I’m starting to work my way through that list so if you’re on it, I’m getting there!

This is an urban fantasy using the trope Fantasy-Creatures-Exist-Under-Our-Noses, with an underground network of Fae, monsters, and other fantasy creatures. The main character, Pax, has gotten a rude awakening to this reality when a kid in a bar comes up to her and starts talking nonsense about minotaurs and other absurdities. Pax has no idea what he’s on about, she’s a poker player and doesn’t believe in fairy tale stuff. Unbeknownst to her, there’s a government agency that tracks and keeps tabs on the fantasy creatures that most people don’t know about. The kid who comes up to her in the bar talking about minotaurs was being followed by a government agency that secretly keeps track of the supernatural world. The government agent, Casaria, thinks that Pax knows more than she really does, and so he confiscates her money and takes the kid into custody. She’s told she will probably get her money back after an investigation. Casaria, is a piece of work and also a main POV. He has delusions of grandeur that he’s the only one who can keep the city safe from what lies beneath it. He’s developed a pathological hatred for the faeries and everything else supernatural, taking satisfaction in killing these creatures.

Casaria more or less blackmails Pax into cooperation using her own money as leverage. He won’t give all of her money back until she assists him, even though she truly doesn’t know what’s going on. There are other lesser characters as well, but they don’t take up as much page time as these two. I think my favorite character, though, was Letty. The foul-mouthed and gutsy Fae who hates seemingly everything and has a chip on her shoulder. The Fae in general are very skeptical about working with humans and the two species try and keep their distance from one another. (The humans that know that the Fae exist, anyway) Letty runs a small gang that’s been working on getting a device back that could help restore the lost city of the Fae. It’s a complicated story so I’ll leave it there.

I didn’t know where the story was going for most of the book, it took a long time for all the little parts of the story line to come together. This was partly because there were so many different POVs, and partly because the plot was a little loose in and of itself.

I feel like I got to know the central characters pretty well, but the side characters lacked a little depth. I didn’t always know what their motivations or intentions were. It seemed as though their purpose was to gain insight into the world I otherwise wouldn’t have seen if it focused solely on Pax. I would have liked to have gotten a better look at the Fae culture since they do play a central part in the plot, we get glimpses of it but not enough to make it come to life. The majority of the POVS and side characters were from the human perspective.

I liked the world building a lot, for a book on the shorter side there was quite a bit of world building packed into it. Ordshaw itself feels a little gritty, a little seedy, a little dangerous. What lies below it, doubly so. The creatures really kick up a notch in the last third of the book when several characters find themselves lost in the underground world trying to get out before they get disemboweled.

The writing is very straight forward, there’s not a ton of description, metaphors and similes are rarely used, and the dialogue is quick, witty, and modern. I absolutely flew through this book. I was able to crank it to 1.8x on audible and make it through in a couple days. I liked the narrator quite a bit, I’d never heard her narrate anything before but I felt like she did a really good job bringing the book to life. Even if I hadn’t listened on audible I would have expected to get through it quickly due to the prose and length of the book. I love when dialogue is done so well I don’t ever think “who says that” or have it jar me out of a moment because it’s too over the top or too rigid. Dialogue is tricky, and for me, if it’s done well, it sort of fades into the background and lets the story tell itself rather than having the characters tell it to you. If that makes sense?

All in all I had a good time with this one, if you’re into urban fantasy and want something that’s not a noir or a romance, this is the book for you. It’s different, it’s fun, it’s got fun characters and great dialogue.


  • Plot: 10/15
  • Characters: 11/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 73/100 or 3.5/5 stars on GR