One of my favorite series of all time is the Garrett files series by Glen Cook, which did urban fantasy before that was even a thing, although it doesn’t take place in a modern setting but a second world fantasy. But apart from that, it’s detective fiction set against an urban landscape that trots out all the cliches you expect from fantasy seen through the lens of a protagonist who is more modern than medieval.
Another favorite of mine are the Night Watch novels of the Discworld series, which again are urban fantasy apart from taking place in a second world fantasy setting with coppers looking into crimes. Both series feel very modern in outlook, both have characters that look at their world and recognize problems that to a large extent feel very contemporary.
First Watch is a bit like that, it has coppers, crime and a second world setting with slightly modern problems. It’s about a young noble who run away from home and tries to make his way on his own and by accident gets in with one of the local wards (the equivalent of a police precinct), gets partnered with an older cop, a dwarf, and solves a cop murder that leads to uncovering something much bigger. The city this takes place in is part of a generic second world, there are orcs, dwarves, elves and probably even more fantasy races and monsters that can be found in this kind of setting.
Nothing about the city, the bigger setting or any of the other elements feels unique or even somewhat fantastic. It’s fantasy, sure, but somehow it winds up feeling utterly mundane and uninteresting. Not the main POV and the ongoing case, which was compelling enough to make me finish the book, but the world itself just feels utterly tedious and bland.
If I were younger and didn’t have read better examples of the genre, I probably would look at the book much more favorable, but since I am not and I have, whenever I try to think about the book, I can’t stop comparing it to its betters. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not great either. And there’s nothing here that makes me want to check out its sequels.