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Talus and the Frozen King

Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards, Talus #1

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.

Last year saw a sort of emerging of a new trend, blending more of the crime solving/detective in a fantasy setting such as epic and historical fantasy. Most of the urban fantasy stories have this element but it wasn't often seen in other fantasy genre. I enjoyed Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton a lot, which also featured crime investigation in an historical setting and when I saw the release Talus and the Frozen King I had to read this book. Talus and the Frozen King is written by Graham Edwards who is well known for his The Ultimate Dragon Saga and his The Stone Trilogy.Talus and the Frozen King is his latest book and kicks off a new and exciting series. 
When I started reading Talus and the Frozen King, one thing directly came to mind. I have been a fan of the series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and one scene sprang to mind. There is this one episode where Grissom relates a story from I think feudal Japan were CSI was "invented", a brutal murder was carried out in a small village, a man's head was decapitated but no suspect was found, one wise man forced every villager with a shovel to stand in the sun and eventually the shovel of one man attracted flies... indicating that he had blood on his shovel and was thus the suspect. It is exactly this feeling that I got when I read Talus and the Frozen King. Graham Edwards neatly blends in the Sherlock Holmes feeling into his story, producing a one-of-a-kind read.

In Talus and the Frozen King, you follow the adventures are the traveling bard Talus and his friend Bran who are on the search of something traveling North. All of a sudden they hear screams coming from a village and Talus is drawn to find out just what caused these screams. They stumble on the dead king Hashath. The villagers presume that he just died of natural causes but Talus already starts to connect some dots and finds evidence that Hashath has been murdered. In his wake Hashath leaves behind six grieving sons... however due to the high amount of rivalry between the sons all the fingers start to point in their direction, that one of them must have murdered their father... Now that the murder has been made public, Talus finds himself intrigued to find out who murder Hashath and why. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Talus. It's just what you want to read in a detective story. A nice case study, evidence is piling up that hardly makes sense to you and eventually a clever plot twist that will make you say out loud: "Why didn't I see this any sooner". Added to this is that Graham Edwards doesn't produce a simplistic story at all. Though the story is contained on the island of Creyak, Graham Edwards involves a lot of other factors into his story, relations good and bad with people from different islands. This nicely broadened the whole scope of the story. And Graham Edwards further shows that you don't need to write a lot to achieve this as Talus and the Frozen King is a fairly short read. He makes every word count. 

As for the characters in Talus and the Frozen King. Talus himself makes up for an very interesting protagonist. He is a traveling bard and always has a good story at hand. He is very smart and first takes in everything of his surrounding before speaking or making a judgement. He isn't primarily a detective. Talus more drawn to finding out the things that make life go round and when opposed with an murder case to which no person can yet to be put to blame, it's for him to good an opportunity to let pass. What really made Talus's character great for me was the whole setting of the book, the neolithic atmosphere. There aren't any fancy tools that Talus can use to solve this murder, he has to rely on his observational skills, quick mind, sharp tongue and the questions he asks. Next to Talus you have his trusty companion Bran. Bran has a dark past and partly relies on Talus to show him a direction in life, Bran has lost the one person he loved in his life and this haunts him daily. Talus and Bran are on some front pretty opposite each other, where Talus lets everything sink in before acting, Bran acts on the fly and this produces some very frustrated scenes but also some very funny and humorous ones. Bran is the trusted sidekick to Talus, whenever Talus needs something Bran is by his side to do it, but don't think that Bran is just a mere follower. He does have his own opinion ready to let loose. I think this makes their relation even more dynamic and unpredictable. Besides these two main characters of the story, you do get to get acquainted with several of the inhabitants of Creyak. Mainly the six brothers and the village shaman. From the different brother I really enjoyed reading the story of Tharn. He is the eldest brother and heir to the throne so I more or less naturally comes down that he is the most likely one to have killed Hashath... Another side character that makes you think twice is the village shaman Mishina, it seems that his motive might not be that virtuous at all... .

One thing that caused me to be drawn into the story was the way that Graham Edwards write his story. I already mentioned that he writes in a minimalistic kind of way when it comes down to word, but this doesn't make the story a bad one at all. No, the way that he executes his story more shows that he is an great author and knows what he does and what he wants. There is no trade off in terms of character development and worldbuilding. It's by the investigation that Talus and Bran lead that you get to learn more and more about the island of Creyak and the eventual goal that Talus and Bran have, following the Northern Lights. What I like to see in a detective is to have the author "interact" with the reader, especially when it comes down to revealing clues and seeing how the character react to it. Graham Edwards briefly states facts and a short interpretation by Talus when he discovers something new but does allow you yourself to think about what it all could mean and sort of carry out your own investigation. This is something that I really enjoyed, even though I was wrong... When eventually the murderer was designates, at about 50 pages before the end, I had some reservations about if the book would have climaxed to soon, however, by revealing the murderer Graham Edwards readily transforms his story and a bigger plot twist, the actual reason behind the murder comes to show. Perfect! 

Talus and the Frozen King is a unique book and to be honest I hadn't thought that the book would turn out the way it did. I had some expectations of the storyline but Graham Edwards went above my expectations. He has brought a Sherlock Holmes kind of feeling back to the neolithic era. The main protagonist is great to read about he has many essenctric habits that make him interesting, added to it is that he is a bard, not your average detective. This makes him very versatile and doesn't pin his character down as only solving crimes as the series continues. Definitely recommended for everyone who wants to read some new and exciting!


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