Book Review: Titanshade by Dan Stout
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery
Series: Book 1 of The Carter Archives
Publisher: DAW Books (March 12, 2019)
Length: 407 pages
Titanshade was a novel that took me a long time to read, but it certainly wasn’t due to lack of interest. Rather, things have gotten really busy for me in these last few months, but believe me, all I could think of was getting back to this book and I am so glad I got to finish it before the end of the year because apparently a sequel is already on the horizon.
In this debut novel, author Dan Stout takes us to the gritty, bustling city of Titanshade, where our jaded protagonist named Carter ekes out a living as a homicide detective. The mystery heats up right away as he is called into the scene of a gruesome crime involving the murder of a high-ranking diplomat in his hotel room. The victim, who belongs to a race of a frog-like creatures called a Squib, had been in town with his people’s delegation to negotiate the funding of a new source of energy which could have saved Titanshade’s dying economy following the depletion of its oil supplies. But now, all that is jeopardized as the pressure comes down hard on the police force to solve the case quickly in order to prevent the political shitstorm that would destroy all chances of a successful deal.
Though he prefers to work alone, Carter is assigned a partner as part of an effort to improve inter-species relations within the department. A Mollenkampi, characterized by their large and powerful face mandibles, Ajax is a rookie fresh out of the academy, but the truth is, he’s not too happy to be working with Carter either, given the older cop’s dubious reputation. But the two men are determined to do their job, throwing themselves into the investigation to bring swift justice to the killer. Before they can make much progress, however, the city is rocked by news of another murder, this time of a family in the suburbs, and despite the differences in the two cases Carter has reason to believe they are related. What follows next is a journey into the seedier side of Titanshade as our characters follow up on clues leading them to question witnesses from prostitutes to corrupt cops. As they get closer to the truth, Carter also becomes a target, leading him to fear for the safety of his close friend Talena, a young woman who is like a daughter to him.
In a word, this novel was awesome. Let’s cut straight to the chase and talk about one of its strongest aspects, and that is undoubtedly the world-building. The cover sums it up nicely, featuring the gritty, neo-noir urban jungle that is Titanshade, rendered in a style which appropriately evokes the world’s unique brand of nostalgia. And I’ll bet your attention was also drawn to the green toothy monstrous looking creature, hanging out there in the back like it’s the most natural thing in the world. That’s because several races share the universe of Titanshade, in a dynamic you’d more typically see in a sci-fi novel, but of course this is more an urban fantasy and detective mystery mashup. The story has a lot of the hallmarks of the crime noir genre, served up with a generous helping of magic and wonder. From the potent mood-altering properties of Squib blood to the off-putting way the Mollenkampi eat, there are so many little details and I could list a lot more here but then we’d be here all night.
Story-wise, the start was admittedly a bit slow on account of the author introducing his characters, world descriptions, and plot details all at once in rapid succession, though the result was that many of these leads had to be put on pause while the rest of the book caught up. Having a well-established base ended up paying off though, because when all these plot threads starting coming together, the story took off like a runaway freight train and it was all I could do to keep track of all the shocking reveals and sudden developments.
Carter was also a difficult character to get on board with, though I warmed to him after a while, especially when more about his past on the police force was revealed, as well as his special bond with Talena and what she meant to him. Again, these moments, planted in the early parts of the book, came to have a powerful impact later on in the story as significant events unfolded. Dan Stout isn’t one to do anything by accident. Here or there I thought his writing could have been tightened up, but overall, I felt Titanshade was well-written and cleverly plotted. It’s simply a stellar debut, and I was extremely impressed at the way it all came together.
So check it out! Every once in a while, a book that is so entertaining and fascinating in its uniqueness will come along and breathe new life into the genre, and Titanshade is definitely one of those. I can’t wait to read the sequel.