One of my contributing writers, Eric Edwards, a huge fan of the Arthurian legend, turned in this guest review of Tony Hays‘s new novel, The Killing Way.
A gruesome murder occurs within the first few pages and all the evidence implicates Merlin as the one responsible. Arthur knows his old friend isn’t the culprit, but due to an impending election he must be both impartial and swift with his judgment. Arthur’s command over all of Britannia is at stake, as many enemies await a wrong move by the once and future king so they can wrest both power and public favor from him. Arthur turns to his former trusted lieutenant, Malgwyn, to clear Merlin’s name and expose the real killer. The problem is that Malgwyn is now a one-armed drunk with an undying hatred of Arthur after he refused to let Malgwyn die on the battlefield.
The author’s research borders upon the exhausting and he’s occasionally repetitive in his description of the period clothing and politics. While the story itself kept me turning the pages, Arthurian legend purists could become frustrated by the constant mentioning of familiar characters without allowing these characters to live and breathe as they should.
Obviously Arthur is depicted, but this Arthur is not the boy king we know. In fact, he is already graying but has yet to sit upon his throne and political ramifications have kept him from actually marrying Guinevere. There’s no mention of Lancelot, but there is a most prominent Sir Kay and the expectedly evil Mordred. Nimue makes an appearance, but she’s almost an afterthought as a member of Arthur’s household who gives testimony to Malgwyn. The biggest disappointment is Merlin, whom Hays depicts as a once-sharp advisor who fancied himself a sorcerer, but is now perceived as a crazy old man. But the story isn’t about them. It’s about Malgwyn and the inner thoughts of an original medieval detective.
Malgwyn is sharp as a tack when it comes to the dark side of human nature because of his own personal demons. He was a happy and hardworking farmer until the Saxons came, raped and killed his wife. He’s off-putting at first, but his tenacity in searching for the truth while his adversaries try to sabotage his every turn made me root for him to save the day. I look forward to a series with Malgwyn solving medieval crimes.
Guest Nerd Verdict: A good read, but not necessarily for fans of King Arthur