Talus and the Frozen King is the start of a new series, and one that I’m looking forward to. It’s a genre blending work of heroic fantasy and mystery.
The hero, known only as Talus, is a wandering bard. He and his companion Bran are looking for the source of what we would call the Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights. They enter a village on the island of Creyak, where they discover that the king has been murdered, his body left out in the cold and frozen.
Because of the timing of their visit, they aren’t allowed to leave. The king left behind six sons. Each of them had a motive to commit murder.
Talus is extremely observant and picks up on details most people overlook. I’ve not read much Agatha Christie, but the impression I had was that Talus was a type of Bronze Age Hercule Poirot. Or perhaps Sherlock Holmes. The ending leaves open the possibility of a Moriarty figure in future installments. And Bran certainly played the role of Watson at times.
Things on the island aren’t what they seem, and more than just the king’s sons are hiding secrets. The mystery was reasonably well done and took some turns I wasn’t expecting. I’m still mulling over a view of the twists, but on the whole I found it satisfying.
Mystery and fantasy, especially heroic fantasy, is a hard combination to pull off. Not only do you have to play fair with the reader, but any fantastic elements have come into play naturally. The challenge is to do this without either broadcasting the resolution or pulling a deus ex machina at some point. I’ve tried my hand at this type of tale, and it’s not easy.
Edwards avoids this difficulty to a point by not having much magic in the story at all. The characters believe in things we would consider factual, but at no point that I recall does he actually violate the laws of science as they are currently understood. In many ways this was more of a historical novel than a fantasy novel.
I’m completely okay with that approach. The result was something fresh and different from most books on the shelves. I hope it does well, because I would love to see more of Talus and Bran.
Solaris has been quietly publishing some solid work by relative newcomers (see my review of Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion for another example). Check out Talus and the Frozen King to see what I mean.
I’d like to thank Michael Molcher of Solaris Books for the review copy.