Overview (No Spoilers):
In the early hours of the morning in the grim city of Moras, a double murder is committed, setting into motion a time-sensitive investigation to find the true murderer. Told from the perspectives of Silas, a knowledge-hungry doctor, and Dunewell, an upright inspector, the yarn unravels at a steady pace, leaving clues for the reader to pick up and examine as it moves along. Several events are told from the point of view of both Silas and Dunewell, which was an interesting plot device, and one I enjoyed, as I tried to cross-reference actions and dialogue and interpret an unreliable narrator’s thoughts. I later learned that the author, Hanson, has an extensive law enforcement background, which plainly shows through with his sophisticated handling of the murder investigation pieces of his plot.
The first half of the story is more like a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery, which then takes a surprising turn into a more heavily magical second half. This shift took a little getting used to because I was thoroughly enjoying the role of armchair detective as I followed Dunewell in his investigation. However, the steady action, interesting characters, and suspense kept me hooked, and I rolled with the punches toward a satisfying conclusion.
One minor issue, common among the first books in a series, is the sheer amount of plot machinations happening in the story: a murder investigation, sinister vampire activity, a complex religion, a secret society, a legend about fallen champions, a possible love curse, etc. It feels like a lot of set-up for later books, which may be necessary, but also can be overwhelming for a reader getting acquainted with this world for the first time.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- The concept of the rust wolf, whose breath dissolves metal, was fascinating and original. I enjoyed that particular detail.
- Dunewell’s mistake in not examining the bodies with greater detail seems out of character for a man who is so thorough and perceptive. I’m not sure I completely bought into this plot point.
- The love curse with Erin felt a bit heavy-handed, and, again, I was surprised that Dunewell, with all of his experience, wouldn’t recognize that he’d fallen under some sort of spell as his thoughts continually shifted back toward this woman he only knows in passing.
Pugilist– a professional boxer