by Matthew Marchitto
Ghorad-Gha, once magnificent city of clay and bronze, crumbles. Those prosperous few burden the shoulders of the downtrodden. In a city of forgotten glory, the lawless thrive.
A monk turns up dead, and Arn is determined to find out why. Along with his stone skinned companion, Rohqim, they'll be dragged deep into Ghorad-Gha's underbelly, where the Horned Scarab reigns.
The Horned Scarab is a short, private-eye mystery set in a fantasy world. The city of Ghorad-Gha kind of reminded me of Venice, but not quite. Arn and Rohqim are investigative privateers tasked with figuring out why a broken off chunk of statue cost their client’s partner his life.
I liked the characters in the story the best, particularly the idea of the sculpted, stone people, Lodee and Rohqim. They’re fascinating. Who shapes them? It’s obvious they can heal, but I’m left curious about just how much stone they are. Anyhow, they’re neat. I also loved Resa. Her plight and her nature are intriguing. There’s some interesting stuff going on in the city, too, with just the right amount of background and world building.
Then again, it took me a while to get into the mystery because I was having trouble keeping everything straight. It seemed to be thought out and well-written, a good cadence to the words and some really fantastic descriptions that just blossom to life, but it wasn’t until almost the end that I realized why I was having trouble keeping up with the actual storyline: the transitions.
First, there are a lot of them. Also, the scenes seem to jump around like lightning. It’s like you blink and you’re now in someone else’s head or several hours have passed or maybe something’s happening at the same time as the scene you just read, both within the chapters and between them, and unfortunately, it isn’t always clear which of these it is. It’s disorienting. I think a few direct words added to the very beginning of each new scene to orient the reader in time, space, and character would go a long way.
So overall, I liked it. It’s a read folks who enjoy fantasy and mystery might enjoy. I’m hoping some of the jumpiness will be sorted in a future edition, but until then, I’d just say read it when you’re fresh so you don’t miss anything. You’ve got to be paying attention.
I received the review copy of this book from the author.
About the Author:
Matthew has always had an affinity for fantasy, starting with the Redwall series, and then stumbling into the lore of Warcraft. Robert E. Howard, George R.R. Martin, and Brandon Sanderson were the authors that really cemented the love for fantasy. Matthew is partial to anything with a sword and sorcery twist and unique setting.