Dark Solus: An Assassin’s tale is a fantasy tale that is truly filled with adventure, battles and some raw emotion. The start of the n but novel is intriguing and suitably suspenseful, it certainly sets the scene for the kind of world the reader is going to enter; at the same time it’s not overly detailed so the rest of the novel has plenty to offer.
Moving on as you read further you’ll find the novel has a good pace, with interesting characters being introduced all the time, consistently adding depth, intrigue and much appreciated context to the events of the main character’s (Dark Solus) journey. However during my reading I was not totally taken with the choice of names used. Whilst the names are somewhat unusual and therefore fitting with the fantasy genre, it found all but the name ‘Mephisto’ was somewhat lacking. In this I include Dark Solus. His name does fit the role he must take on during the novel and befits his history, but I felt it was somewhat out of line with my perception of the rest of his character.
Crawford has a good use of adjectives, his depiction of a hell-horse is not only unusual as I’m normally greeted by hell-hounds or the knights of hell and even the apocalypse horsemen, but it’s also an incredibly thoughtful quite frankly beautiful and depiction. Another impressive nod to this skill is the paragraph in which Mephisto transforms himself into an imaginatively detailed, well-timed and a plot twist which hints at other striking plot twist possibilities. In keeping with this level of detail is the magic lessons between Dark and Mephisto, which I found very interesting as this is an area of fantasy I find many authors skip over, or rely on the reader to assume the character’s level of skill.
By Chapter six the reader will have proof that Crawford is capable of producing believable, engaging and detailed battle scenes time and time again. Although violent in nature (as most epic battles are) and seemingly cruel, Crawford never lets the reader forget that all the violence and cruelty comes from a boy with a tragic past and a promise to fulfil and perhaps readers will feel more sympathetic towards Dark for this. By chapter seven a story of love, loss, revenge, and magic has truly blossomed into a decent work of fiction.
At one point in chapter seven I found an amusing homage to what I could only recognise as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and ‘The Stigg’. Though amusing it was unnecessary and I felt it actually spoilt the atmosphere of the novel, by removing me as the reader from the world of magic I’d settled into, making it feel all the more out of place.
It’s clear there are a variety of literary and cultural influences within Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale from the Greek fates, harpies, Hades and Kraken like creature; to Viking Thor and Loki (Lore) right through to Tolkien’s dwarves with a lost home. Not forgetting the trials of Heracles (Hercules) which are clearly reflected in the quest Dark undertakes throughout his journey.
It’s a bit of a mish-mash but Crawford pulls apart each influence, using only what’s necessary and doesn’t let his inspirations digress from telling Dark’s story. As a reader picking out each influence as you read further is interesting and I found myself all the more engaged with the novel by being able to do so.
There are plenty of back stories Crawford could utilise and expand upon into short stories, which I would certainly be interested in reading. It has such a rich mythology and detailed sub-plots that there are plenty to choose from and fan fiction fantasy writers would also do well to give this novel a try.
Overall Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale is well worth the read for fantasy lovers, but also it’s got a bit of everything so it’s a good choice for introducing young or reluctant readers to not only the genre but reading in general which is always a plus.
© Gemma Feltham 2nd June 2014