Hi Rob – thank you for your advice, which I can see is well-intentioned, kindly meant, and broadly true. However, I wouldn’t be quite so quick to suggest throwing it away: it’s going to depend on where the learner is in their particular journey, and all sorts of other factors. I have read one of the Storïau Sydyn a few years ago – Y Dyn Oedd yn Gwybod Gormod, about the journalist Gareth Jones, who broke the story of the Holodomor – and it was very good; but you’ll see from the SSiW Book Club thread that many people do read books aimed at native speakers, too.
You’re absolutely right that Darogan is aimed at native speakers, rather than learners, but the little chunk of Middle Welsh that unexpectedly cropped up in it isn’t really representative. It’s mostly a fairly straightforward police procedural with added leylines, with a slightly Ben Aaronovitch-ish feel to it (although without the American Gods “old gods do new jobs” shtick of Ifan Morgan Jones’ Dadeni). It might appeal to others of us who’ve read and enjoyed Dadeni.
Language-wise, I’d say it’s probably a bit easier than Dadeni (certainly than Babel, which I found a bit of a wade, I’m afraid) and definitely a little harder than, say, Llechi. It’s got a few of the formal literary features of adult fiction – imperfects such as curai ei galon (her heart was beating); negatives such as ni chafodd ateb (he didn’t get an answer); impersonals in -id and -wyd (eg gellid, dallwyd); and the odd irregular past tense form (Rhoesant eu bagiau i lawr - they put their bags down - which I have a sneaking suspicion might be @garethrking’s old s-aorist).
But actually it’s pretty colloquial throughout, and if anything, I’d have thought that might give earlier-stage readers - especially Southern ones - a pause: there’s a certain amount of eye-dialect, especially for Gog characters, with spellings like Grynda (Gwranda, listen), Mae’r drws yn gorad (agored - the door’s unlocked), Pam aru chdi’m deu’tha fi? (Why didn’t you tell me?) and Ti 'tha dicshyneri Cymraeg, dwyt (no idea what 'tha is, but from context, ‘You’re like a walking Welsh dictionary, aren’t you?’).
I’m currently about halfway through, since Saturday, and thoroughly enjoying it. The Middle Welsh has just made a reappearance at around p100, but it’s clear that at least one of the main characters has no clue what on Earth it is. (“Something with a lot of g-sounds in it.”) I’ve skimmed ahead, and one of the protagonists tries to explain it to the other in about 60 pages’ time, so I guess I’ll get there (Gruffydd ab yr Ynad Coch gets namechecked, so tip o’ the hat to @siaronjames ). It’s nice to have fantasy that goes back to something other than the Mabinogi for once, too: there are references that you can follow up via Wikipedia to Canu Heledd , which led me to a series of englynion on Cynddylan’s hall - supposedly burnt in cross-border warfare between Powys and Mercia - that are still more or less readable and moving today, even though they’re originally so old that they go back to a time when Welsh didn’t put the verb first (i.e. practically Old Welsh cross-dressing in more modern orthography):
Stafell Gynddylan ys tywyll heno,
heb dan, heb wely.
Wylaf wers; tawaf wedy.
“Cynddylan’s hall is dark tonight,
without a fire, without a bed.
I shall weep a while; afterwards, be silent.”
So, yeah - safe to say I’m enjoying it!