BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The travelling bard Talus and his companion Bran find themselves with a murder on their hands as they pass through the island of Creyak. The victim? The king. Who could commit such a crime? At first, it appears there is no clear motive and no suspect daring enough to kill the king and anger the spirits in the afterlife. But Talus and Bran soon find that the peaceful and isolated Creyak holds its share of secrets.
PROS: The juxtaposition of a detective narrative and investigation that reminds you of many police procedural dramas against an unlikely setting; the murder mystery and reveal are decent and satisfactory; the interpersonal relationships between the island natives, especially the sons of the king, are genuine and interesting to see unwind; the novel diversifies the cast with the inclusion of a gay character.
CONS: The writing tries to evoke a film noir feel, but most sentences turn into telegrams and at times it feels like you have a woodpecker in your head; Talus is supposed to read as a smart and cunning character who has everything under control, but remains a condescending grouch throughout the novel; Bran reads like a plot device that prompts Talus to explain every detail and break in the case to the reader.
BOTTOM LINE: I’ve had a maddening experience with Talus and the Frozen King because when Edwards nails it, this book is a page turner. I had no idea who the murderer was and all the suspects had the motivation to commit the crime. I loved the concept and how the investigative process translates into the Neolithic era. But when Edwards misses the mark, the novel makes me want to bang my head against a wall. I fluctuated between adoration and pure rage every thirty or so pages.
Talus and the Frozen King is at its core a whodunit murder mystery, so any discussion of plot holds little to no merit. I’m going to provide key points with as few spoilers as possible, but some minor spoilers may slip in. Beware, reader!