I was so excited when I was approved on Netgalley to read the Fifth Ward. It promised to be a fun, high fantasy and so I was eager to start asap. And even though I finished a day ago, I haven’t really made up my mind how to rate this book. As I said, in the beginning I was super excited but soon, I realized that I even though I could relate to the main character, ideologically and morally I didn’t approve of the way the book/ characters handled certain situations.
For those hwo haven’t read the book but intend to read it, I won’t spoil anything! I just want to explain in detail what bugged me and therefore I only need a short sketch of a one of the characters: The dwarf Torval.
At first, I really liked his character and I loved how his edges were softened by encounters with other people. He is a tough guy, even though it was quite unnerving that every time the two watchwardens got into a fight, the author would say something lioke ‘even though he was small, the force of his punch forced Torval’s opponent on his knees’. I paraphrased here, but you get the idea.
What bugged me the most was not only the constant brawling of the two watchwardens, which is more or less the city’s police. It was that Torval was extremely racist towards a particular group of the cities population. In Yenara, there are living Elves, Men, Orcs along with other creatures and magic is part of daily business. We get to know why he hates one group so hotly and this animosity seems to be no secret. At one or two incidents, it even seems that he deliberately searches for a reason to arrest or start physically hurting them as way of punishment for such-and-such thing.
AT first, it seemed funny but the more I read, the more I disapproved of the systemic sorting out of a particular group of people. The main character does seem to have some empathy towards a few of Torwals ‘victims’ but obviously he’s not concerned at all by the display of racism and violence. Granted, most of the people they encounter did some thing or other, but in no way do they deserve what happens to them. It certainly is no justice.
This book so reminded me of the issue of police brutality and the targeting and profiling of black and Hispanic citizens. It really made me sick how this book basically mirrored problems our own society has without actually taking a step towards criticism and solving of the issue. I was disturbed by the casual violence and the fact that nobody stopped Torval from being in the watch even if it was clear that he indeed did have a strong dislike towards a certain group of the city’s population.
May do this book an injustice by saying this, but I cannot give this book more than 2 ribbons. I feel like the author failed to show people, through what could have been a powerful and funny story, that police brutality is not normal and should be taken seriously be every ethnicity. Instead of normalizing without self-reflection, this book could have been an inspiration. It is not alright to kill or injure innocent and unarmed citizens, it is not alright to profile a particular ethnicity.