Fifth Ward: First Watch is pretty standard in a lot of ways. It’s a standard fantasy story of the sort which largely takes place in a vaguely medieval city in which a variety of difference races interact including humans, orcs, elves, and dwarves. It’s also a standard buddy cop story in which the naive young trainee is paired with the gruff experienced veterans, they get on each other’s nerves a lot, but eventually through a series of trials become friends and partners. As is not uncommon in both, there is a murder or two, and politics to navigate.
I was strongly reminded of Terry Pratchett, but more in the sense of characters and general world, not in terms of the clever language and social/literary/etc commentary he was rightly known and loved for. Yenara is a less magical (in many ways) and grittier version of Ankh Morpork, and Vimes is substituted for Ondego who decides to give Rem a chance at being a member of the Watch. Torval (dwarf, senior partner) is sort of like a mix of Carrot and Cherie, and Rem (newish in town, hides his noble upbringing, means well, usually succeeds in the end in spite of everything) is kind of Verence. The point is that a lot of the plot and setting feels unoriginal, although it all still mostly works.
It’s not a bad cop/mystery story, starting with the murder of a Watchman, investigating the death of a wealthy man’s daughter, the near killing several times of Rema and/or Torval, and the eventual discovery of a human smuggling ring. It just feels a little like every single episode of Law and Order you’ve ever seen. There are some individual touches like how each race has an ethnarch (ethnic-monarch?- either way a really irritating faux word on account of its obviousness) who gets to dispense justice upon their own, no matter who else may have been effective, which keeps the peace but also might see evildoers go unpunished (this is the politics part). Even these though seem to feel a little bit familiar, like the suspects who get away for technicalities.
I still want to see what happens to Torval and Rem, since there’s enough backstory with hints of more to both of them that I do like them, both as individuals and as a team. Their shenanigans are also pretty entertaining. Next time though, let Ondego have a little more space than to be more than just the strong supervisor that he is. I also liked the villain, mostly evil, a little backstory, but still villainous. I just feel like I’ve seen all these parts before, just not quite in this same combination.