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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superhero/Fantasy crossover
The third installment of the "legends of the red sun" is the most unique so far with a focus on superheroes as a political tool. While this idea is well explored in the realms of comic, I haven't really seen it done in fantasy before. The motivations behind these "heroes" are, oddly enough, more realistic than in modern set comics. It also explores the "good people doing...
Published on 11 Sep 2011 by Neil J. Pearson

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great ideas weakened by a flat ending
Emperor Urtica rules over a nation threatened from within and without. Hordes of invading creatures are threatening the northern islands, where the city of Villiren is commanded to hold out against impossible odds. However, with most of the imperial armies dispatched to Villiren, political intrigue and anarchic violence are taking hold of the streets of Villjamur, the...
Published on 6 Sep 2011 by A. Whitehead


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superhero/Fantasy crossover, 11 Sep 2011
By 
Neil J. Pearson (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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The third installment of the "legends of the red sun" is the most unique so far with a focus on superheroes as a political tool. While this idea is well explored in the realms of comic, I haven't really seen it done in fantasy before. The motivations behind these "heroes" are, oddly enough, more realistic than in modern set comics. It also explores the "good people doing bad things" in a mature way and also highlights that people are often powerless against the system - something I'm sure Mark was intentionally doing.
Some people may find it distracting that only one character from the previous books appears here but to be honest that shouldn't be too much of a worry as the new cast are all quite likeable. Another aspect of Mark's writing which may be "love or hate" is that while he clearly has an epic storyline taking place the focus is, more often than not, more concerned with the immediate personal problems of his characters. I found this frustrating in places but at the same time realise this is a more honest form of telling the story.
An aspect of the story that may also generate controversy is the transgender character, although I think she is handled expertly and rather than take a sensationalist approach to her, Mark uses her as one of many links that fit into the books title. There are some scenes in the book that are worrying in the sense that I sadly fear that's how people in our own world would respond.
It's also worth pointing out that Mark is often at his best when writing scenes that should be utterly ridiculous but often turn out to be the most heartfelt eg being caught "cheating" by your dead partner.
Overall I'd say this book is well worth the read although many might find this story as a diversion from the main arc, although closer inspection reveals it actually progresses the story quite a lot as well as introduce some major characters. The action is more understated than it was in "city of Ruin" but the characterisation is as strong as ever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Sun Novels, 2 Aug 2013
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Adore this writer. Very well written, terrific imagination. Can't put it down, which wears out the battery on my phone!!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "This was no time to be a hero.", 7 Jun 2011
With The Book of Transformations Mr. Newton returns to Villjamur, the towering city (and Imperial capital) that dominated the first book in the series. There have been changes. An apocalyptic new ice age is still looming on the horizon. Alien crab people are leering at the world from a hostile dimension. The Empire is aggressively at war with its neighbours, seeking to stockpile resources and grab new land. At home, things are no more peaceful. The Emperor Urtica has brought about a regime of haves and have-nots, building extravagent new markets for rich merchants while driving the poor and the refugees into a subterranean undercity. It's land war overseas and class war at home.

Mr. Newton cheekily opens The Book of Transformations with "This was no time to be a hero." The rest of the text explores the meaning of that sentence - why does heroism fail? Or, more accurately, superheroism. The core conceit in epic fantasy is that the hero is actually better than everyone else. He's the best swordsman; she's the most powerful wizard or the preternaturally clever thief; he's the child of prophecy; she's the chosen one. Not only are they more important in the Great Scheme of Destiny, they're actually more talented. Be this via exhaustive training (and who doesn't love a fantasy training montage?) or just as the result of an innate power, the hero is superhuman.

Mr. Newton explores this difference in his post-modern look at fantasy heroics. Many of the main characters in The Book of Transformations are also superheroic - in possession of powers way outside the ken of the average bloke.

The Villjamur Knights, the "recruited" team of three heroes intended to protect the city, are the headline examples. Lan, Vuldon and Tane are selected by the increasingly-neurotic Emperor to undergo a series of mysterious cultist trials. As a result, Lan can control gravity. Vuldon is super-strong. Tane becomes a were-tiger with phenomenal agility. The three are an unstoppable force... except that they aren't.

The three were selected because of their physical potential and their pliability. They "get to" become superheroes because the Emperor can be blackmail them into obedience. Similarly, their newfound skills are only of limited use. Being able to break down a door is lovely, but what's there to do in a riot involving thousands of people? Claws are cool but any nasty bureaucrat with access to the right information can keep Tane on a leash. In the greater scheme of things their talents are meaningless. The Emperor has an army to do his dirty work - the role of the Knights is merely to provide a glamorous distraction. This isn't high fantasy. Flying people aren't going to solve Villjamur's problems.

The other key players are facing their own barriers to the successful achievement of the traditional heroic standard. Dartun Sur has been modified by his former alien captors. He can level a village or fly to the moon, but he doesn't know why. He's immensely powerful, but with that comes an equally gaping detachment from the rest of humanity. Sur alternately marvels at his own prowess or barrels inhumanly forward on a mission that he doesn't even fully comprehend.

Shalev, for one of the book's ostensible villains (at least, as far as the Knights are concerned), is the closest interpretation of proper epic heroism. Tragic past + great power = moral obligation. She's out to topple an evil empire and - upon viewing said empire through the readers' eyes - she's got a point. She's possessed by her mission and, although she permits discussion, she is ultimately no more open-minded to dissension than any other superhero. Just like any stableboy with a magic sword, she's got force and certainty on her side.

As a comics fan, I naturally tend toward an analysis of The Book of Transformations' take on fantasy heroism - or, more accurately, the transformation from human to superhuman. But this is only one of the many, many lenses that can be applied Mr. Newton's substantial text. He has given his book an audacious title and yet the finished product manages to live up to it. The book also scrutinizes the moment that utopian socialistic aspiration turns into anarchist revolt, and when enlightened absolutism becomes an oligarchical dictatorship. Transformations marks a turning point in the series as well - the climax of the internal politics and the dawn of a more external focus. The characters themselves undergo a series of transformations: static definitions of gender, class and species are all evolved over the course of the book. Transformation is a broad topic, but Mr. Newton approaches it from every conceivable direction. This is a book that, like many of its Dying Earth predecessors, will provide grist for criticism for decades to come.

That said, The Book of Transformations isn't a weighty tome. It is a cheeky, well-paced adventure story with flashing blades and fiery sorcery a-plenty. There's a stirring romance, a haunting journey through the land of the dead, a series of explosive battles and even a chase scene or two. Mr. Newton maintains the light touch of the surreal that served him so well in City of Ruin - he discusses the very, very strange in the same dry manner as the very, very everyday. Be it the trilobites on the street or the giant in the harbour, the Weirdness is treated as commonplace, which, of course, just makes it all the more wonderfully bizarre.

After an auspicious (if raw) start with Nights of Villjamur, Mr. Newton found his voice with City of Ruin. He hasn't lost it. The Book of Transformations is the work of a confident and mature author. An author who, having become comfortable with his style, is keen to wrap it around increasingly ambitious challenges. And Mr. Newton has just such a challenge on his hands: with a fourth novel in the works, he must to corral the scattered refugees of three tightly-packed volumes in the series' conclusion. I'm aching to know how it all resolves.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 19 July 2011
By 
Book of Transformations - Mark Charan Newton - book 3 of 4.

What a fantastic book. I'll sum up my review. BUY THIS BOOK :)

That was easy. The book can be read as a standalone novel, as with the previous couple of books he has slightly changed his style, In this book and we are back in the stunning city of Villjamur the site of the first book in the series. The city is surrounded by refugees, Emperor Urtica has now taken over control of the city and is determined to hold on to it come hell or high water. The big freeze is inching closer and the world is holding it's breath.

The city has all sorts of problems the refugees outside, and the oppressed minorities within the city who have a strange rebel leader. So what can the slightly mad emporer come up with... Obvious of course! Create a group of superheroes to save the city. How could anything go wrong with that idea.

So he gets an old ex hero, a self indulgent weener, and a seriously sexy kick arse transsexual together and improves them to save the city.

We have a bit of a mad monk arrive around now, who among other things seems to have the ability to bring the dead back as ghosts....

Nothing can go wrong with Urtica's plans ;)

The slight fly in the ointment is the scary group of cultists marching back to the city to pass on some ultimatum from alien Invaders. Well by now the title really really becomes accurate and everything around the city is transforming.

Then chaos is let loose within the city, grab this book and find out what happens.

I've reviewed this for another site and said it's the best book / new series / new author that I have read in a very long time. The writing and pace of the book is fantastic. Your never quite sure what is going to happen next.

If there is one author you must add this year to your list of must have authors make it Mark Charan Newton.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 9 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Book of Transformations: Legends of the Red Sun: Book Three (Paperback)
Bought for the husband for his birthday, he thoroughly enjoyed it. Will be buying the next book in the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Intriguing, 18 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Book of Transformations: Legends of the Red Sun: Book Three (Paperback)
I recently bought a copy of this book. I am only half-way through reading the book but I think it is refreshing and unique in some ways. Without giving away much, I think the character stories are interesting and I can't wait to finish reading the book and start the next one.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great ideas weakened by a flat ending, 6 Sep 2011
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Emperor Urtica rules over a nation threatened from within and without. Hordes of invading creatures are threatening the northern islands, where the city of Villiren is commanded to hold out against impossible odds. However, with most of the imperial armies dispatched to Villiren, political intrigue and anarchic violence are taking hold of the streets of Villjamur, the capital. To combat the threat, Urtica recruits three individuals and transforms them into super-powered warriors, the Villjamur Knights, but must use a mixture of threats and promises of rewards to keep them in line.

Meanwhile, a priest arrives in Villjamur on a quest that has already seen him marked for death by the region's dominant religion. He seeks to expose a lie that has defined the history of the Boreal Archipelago, but in doing so may trigger events that he and the world are unprepared for. Far to the north, Dartun Sur and his band of cultists have returned from the invading creatures' homeworld and rush back to the capital to reveal their findings...in a manner that no-one is expecting.

The Book of Transformations is the third and penultimate volume in The Legends of the Red Sun, following on from Nights of Villjamur and City of Ruin. Like the earlier books in the series, it places a number of self-contained narratives in the context of a longer, more epic story. This time around Newton gives us the story of Lan, a woman born in a man's body, who undergoes a sex-change operation fuelled by magic (or, more accurately, relic technology) only to find herself pressganged into the Knights and kept in service by blackmail.

It's unusual to see transgenderism raised as an issue in a secondary world fantasy novel, but Newton ties it in expertly with the book's overall theme of personal transformation, whether it's physical, spiritual or ideological. Almost every character is undergoing a metamorphosis of some kind, some voluntary, others not, and Lan's transformation is handled sensitively and fits in with the overall theme of the book very well.

Elsewhere, Newton's skills with atmosphere remain strong, with the snow-shrouded streets and rooftops of Villjamur remaining an evocative setting for the action. Character-wise, he gives us some memorable newcomers and brings back a couple of older hands (though not many; the book takes place simultaneously with much of City of Ruin, so the characters from that book are not present) to keep the plot ticking over. This is where the book starts to run into problems: there are a lot of characters doing a lot of things that need to converge for a grand, world-shaking finale that is undoubtedly meant to be epic, jaw-dropping and leave you on the edge of your seat until the final book is released next year. Unfortunately, this doesn't really happen.

The narrative seems to run out of drive some distance before the end. The problem is that Newton is at his best when engaging with interesting issues in a manner that is thoughtful and based in characters' emotions. That's not to say he can't do great mayhem - City of Ruin had some splendid battle sequences - but to do so he needs to root scenes of chaos and combat with characters we've become emotionally invested in. Book of Transformation's key weakness is that there's so much going on we haven't really had time to get really acquainted with the characters to make the huge scenes at the end of the novel come to life. In particular, whilst Lan is well-written, her two fellow Knights are much more lightly-sketched with only hints at depth rather than real exploration of their characters. Hinging so much of the climactic action sequences on their exploits thus falls flat. Similarly, the priest Ulryk is an interesting character with great potential, but he never really comes to life, and Inquisitor Fulcrom's desire to help him feels a bit random, something that has to happen for the plot to work regardless of whether or not it makes sense in terms of character motivation.

The cumulative effect of this is that instead of a vast, awe-inspiring and grand climax, we get something that is, at best, perfunctory. On an intellectual level, lots of interesting things happen at the end, but there is little emotional power to them. Newton's prose, which can be richly atmospheric, feels flat and rushed as he moves to the climax. Scenes featuring huge amounts of devastation in which hundreds of people die feel distant and unengaging, whilst the arrival of what is apparently a major new character at the end passes by with little impact. The problems with the climax are in fact highlighted by how good the first half of the book is, particularly the success Newton initially experiences in exploring these themes of transformation and alteration.

The Book of Transformation (***½) starts off promisingly with some well-realised characters and ideas being explored, but then it tails off as the climax approaches. The ending of the book feels rushed and under-written in comparison to what has come before, but Newton manages to hold things together just well enough to make the final novel an interesting prospect, provided he can avoid the same issues next time around. The novel is available now in the UK and on import in the USA.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 26 Jun 2011
I'll be brief. This book is a fantastic read every beautifully crafted page of the way. Pure enjoyment, this was such a rewarding read....

As I read through this I was pleased to find that there was not one page of wasted words. For me there was not one time when I was having to read through lesser parts of the book or 'filler' to get to the good bits and I found this very refreshing. It was just great story and great characters all the way through. What more do you want!?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genre defiant series doubles down on "Weird.", 26 Sep 2012
By 
Ahimsa Kerp (Portland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Book of Transformations: Legends of the Red Sun: Book Three (Paperback)
This aptly named book takes the Red Sun series to new and unexpected places.

It's not perfect, and at times the prose feels first drafty. Some of the dialogue is clunky, and the modern vernacular is distracting; ie; "What's up?" a character refers to their "rep," an angry boss yells "my office, now!" There are two mentions of Neandrathals, which seems to make no sense to this world. Presumably the dialect has been translated from a foreign tongue to modern English, but it can be jarring.

Newton deserves kudos for writing books like no one else. The introduction of what are essentially superheroes to a fantasy tale is risky, but he handles it deftly. Each of the Knights are compelling characters (though one wonders why there are only three of them.)

Urtica is an all-too believable villain; a petty, scheming greedy man who has risen to power via all means necessary. He doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he's written quite well.

The best part of this book, however, is the examination of underlying social issues. Even whilst reading the Knight's tales, we as a reader know that we are reading about the bad guys, the shock troops of Villjamur's 1 percent. That they don't consider themselves bad, that no one in the book does, is sign of a well-constructed story.

In short, Book of Transformations is a thinking man's fantasy, for fans of nuance and good characterization as much as epic battles and cool magic systems.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging read, 4 Sep 2011
Summary: go and read the book, it's flipping awesome. It has all of the best things from Newton's previous novels (great characters, great setting, weird stuff you'd never imagine, twists and turns and surprises) plus the writing is way better and there are superheroes.

This is my favourite in the series so far, mainly because Lan is such a kick-ass character and the writing style has got really good - in the Book of Transformations Newton seems to have found the right mix of wordiness and simplicity and landed on a really readable style to go with the fantastic (literally) settings and characters. This book is pretty much stand-alone - obviously there are tie ins to the other books so far but really it wouldn't be hard to read it alone. There is so much that is bizarre and left-of-field in these novels, you pretty much have to just go with it either way.

Like another reviewer said, this isn't a typical superhero story - it has layers of complexity aplenty like all of the series. I won't spoil it but the ending is a real surprise and I have no clue what on earth is going to end up happening in the final novel.
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The Book of Transformations: Legends of the Red Sun: Book Three
The Book of Transformations: Legends of the Red Sun: Book Three by Mark Charan Newton (Paperback - 5 July 2012)
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