Title: Talus and the Frozen King
Author: Graham Edwards
Series: Talus #1
Genre: Fantasy Mystery
Sent for review by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads)
Meet Talus-the world’s first detective.
A dead warrior king frozen in winter ice. Six grieving sons, each with his own reason to kill. Two weary travellers caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit.
In a distant time long before our own, wandering bard Talus and his companion Bran journey to the island realm of Creyak, where the king has been murdered. From clues scattered among the island’s mysterious barrows and stone circles, they begin their search for his killer. But do the answers lie in this world or the next?
Nobody is above suspicion, from the king’s heir to the tribal shaman, from the servant woman steeped in herb-lore to the visiting warlord whose unexpected arrival throws the whole tribe into confusion. And when death strikes again, Talus and Bran realise nothing is what it seems. Creyak is place of secrets and spirits, mystery and myth. It will take a clever man indeed to unravel the truth. The kind of man this ancient world has not seen before.
The idea to transpose a Sherlockian character into a fantasy setting is an ingenious one. I loved the idea of solving a murder mystery without the aid of smartphones and internet access and other modern facilities, and one of my favourite things about fantasy worlds is exploring them. Often with epic fantasy stories, the plot moves on so rapidly, you have little time to absorb the beauty of the world, but with a claustrophobic murder mystery tale, there’s plenty of time to take everything in.
And Creyak is a creepy place – a frozen island only accessible by sea or through a maze. Edwards expertly weaves details in throughout the story about the location, the world mythology – particularly religious elements – and as the fog rolls in for the final, climactic set piece, I felt myself wanting to snuggle up under a blanket as the chill seemed to seep from my Kindle.
But, atmospheric location and world-building aside, I did have a few issues with the book. For one, the big issue with Sherlock is he’s really annoying – smug, know it all, and always withholding key information from the layman character (and therefore reader) until it’s plot appropriate to reveal. Which gets frustrating after a while.
Talus didn’t carry any improvements on this model. He was equally likely to dash off without finishing a sentence or refuse to reveal what he knows, which did irritate me from time to time. Things also didn’t seem to pick up very quickly, or ever really move at any considerable pace, even though the dead body of the king was discovered pretty rapidly.
Overall, it just felt a little sluggish to me. I enjoyed the world and the details, I liked some of the twists and turns in the plot, but there just wasn’t really anything that was keeping me turning the pages apart from the fact that I wanted to finish it so I could read the next book on my list. Which isn’t as damning as it sounds – I didn’t give up on it – it was just good enough to make me interested in what happened next, but not quite special enough to make me desperate to know.