The Horned Scarab (The Investigative Privateers #1)
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 isn’t pompous fantasy. It’s shameless fun.
I kept waiting for Marchitto to step in and give all the strange names and references context, but I soon realised he wasn’t going to waste my time re-explaining already familiar fantasy tropes. In fact, there are passages where the characters verge on poking fun at things left unexplained. Marchitto chucks you in the deep end because he’s confident you’ll swim if you’re a fantasy fan. We discover the world and its inhabitants alongside our heroes as they unravel the mystery before them, and what emerges is a fast-paced, plot-driven story unencumbered by onerous detail.
Ghorad-Gha is a pretty dark place with a lot of conflict. Combine this with all of the fantasy elements and you’re left with a really interesting setting. I was impressed with how much world-building Marchitto was able to pack into this book without it seeming dense or overly descriptive.
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.