Dusk is probably one of the darkest, most disturbing fantasy tales that I have ever read. Tim Lebbon creates an extremely interesting, mysterious world (Noreela) that is full of insane people, creatures, and drugs.
Dusk follows the journey of Rafe Baburn, an innocent young farm boy who is being hunted by the Red Monks. The Red Monks were formed after the Cataclysmic War 300 years ago to make sure that the Mages could never get magic again. To ensure that, magic has been completely drained from the land, and the Monks are out to destroy anything that could possibly bring magic back for the Mages to take control of (this includes Rafe). After some gruesome encounters with the Red Monks, Rafe sets out with his band of supporters (a thief, a Shantasi warrior, a witch, a librarian, and a drugged-out fledge miner) to get away from the Monks and find some protection in Noreela.
While the plot of Dusk is really interesting and seemingly original, the book is hampered at many moments by Lebbon's writing style. Most great fantasy anthologies are great because not only are the stories good, but we also grow to love and root for the characters. That is basically impossible in Dusk because Lebbon is constantly switching the narration around from character to character, just so, it seems, he can get as many different angles on the story as possible. Since we never really get to know any character, I found myself completely uncaring when the battle came at the end of the book. Also, I was absolutely clueless as to what was actually happening to the main characters, and I think that Lebbon was pretty clueless too, considering he never gives any real descriptions of what is actually going on so the reader can have any visual in their own mind.
I am going to reserve final judgement on this novel until the sequel, Dawn, comes out next year. Because for all of the faults that this novel has, Lebbon definitely has created some interesting groups of people, just not interesting specific characters. Actually, the land of Noreela is one of the most interesting fantasy worlds that I think I have ever read. So I still believe that Lebbon can save this book if he focuses more on characters in Dawn, and actually gives the reader some information as to what is going on in the land of Noreela. But overall, I would say this is an OK fantasy debut for an author who has stuck to traditional horror in the past. Hopefully it goes upward from here.