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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Welcome to the world of Deepgate, a city suspended by chains over a vast and mysterious chasm. Only after you have lived your life and died will you find what lies underneath Deepgate at the bottom of the abyss. The religion of Deepgate tells its people that they will find peace when your body is thrown or `sent' to the bottom of the pit where the God Ulcis waits with the noble souls of the dead to greet you. But is this true...? Are the priests or `Presbyters' hiding something? In death do the people of Deepgate find peace when they are cast into the pit? Or for thousands of years has the religion of this chained city been based simply on a myth...? That is what, Rachael, an assassin - known to Deepgate citizens as a Spine - is going to find out whether she likes it or not. Rachael has sworn to protect Dill, a teenage angel descended from a holy bloodline and together driven by a quest to save the city, of Deepgate they must travel deep into the abyss and face Ulcis if they want to succeed in their task. Will the creatures that they have been told are their enemies truly be their adversaries, or will the men they have been taught to respect and admire be their greatest threat...?

Scar Night, is a first novel written by Alan Campbell and also the first volume in the Deepgate Codex and it is a terrific start to what promises to become a thrilling saga. However, you can tell that the author has been heavily influenced by other fantasy classics, such as Gormenghast. Like Gormenghast, if you don't stick with it, Scar Night can be a little bit hard to get into. At the beginning of the book, so many characters are introduced and their role in the city is described in such detail that some readers may get a bit confused or frustrated. However, just stick with it because this is the only criticism I would have of this novel. After you get past this minor hurdle and into the story, the book and characters come alive, and you will empathise with Deepgate's heroes and shudder at the malevolence of Deepgate's villains.

In sum, Scar Night is an excellent first book and will leave you, after a slightly slow start waiting with great anticipation for the next instalment of the saga. The book also has some brilliant one-liners as well, all of which will bring a smile to your face along your trek through a great adventure.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2006
A city in chains hanging over an abyss; a dark, gaslit warren of streets; the ancient, brooding temple of an arcane death-cult... the first thing that strikes you about Scar Night is the setting. This is not your average steam-punk slush; the background descriptions are as beautifully written as anything by Mervyn Peake or Gene Wolfe. Neither is it just a pretty travelogue, however - the next things you notice are the mounting piles of bodies and copious amounts of blood. And that's before you even get to the end of the second page.

For a debut author, this is astonishingly good. You can almost smell the burning tar and the filthy kitchens as the story rattles through the city of Deepgate, following the cast of monsters and misfits in their quests for vengeance, glory, catharsis or just a nice creamy pastry...

The plot is well-paced, though it does stray dangerously close to cliche on occasion. The characters, however, for all that they have fantasy archetypes at their core, are properly developed and have motivations that you can care about; there's some good dialogue, too. This is one author whose next book I will be eagerly awaiting.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2006
Dark, surreal, gory, monsters, blood, guts, and oh so beautifully written--an absolute vision of fantasy that one rarely finds. I could SMELL the chained city, picture it vividly, I heard the sounds of it: this is the realism of this book. And yes, there are even touches of sarcastic humor that are a delight. No elves, no dragons--I guess the popular term would be urban fantasy. But to me, this one stands alone, in a class by itself. You MUST experience this book.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2006
Two hundred pages into this novel, I glanced at the amount I still had to get through and wished it could be more, thinking I would be quite happy to live within its world for a whole month. A hundred pages from the end, I was just keen to get it over with.

It starts very well, sort of a Gormenghast with more action. In fact, Gormenghast must be the main (and rather transparent) influence on this book, at least on the first half. Even the characters' names are very Peakeian - Scrimlock, Mr Nettle, Fondelgrue the chief cook, though the names seem less perfectly suited to their owners than Peake's were. We're pluged into a strange gothic city suspended over a supposedly god-inhabited abyss on massive chains forged by archons (angels) in the distant past. The main protagonist, Dill, is a young battle-archon, last of his line, his wings effectively clipped by his temple's fears for his safety and by the city's new reliance on aerial warships, and too weak to wield his ancestor's sword. The other main character is his new protector and tutor, Rachel, a young female member of the temple's assassin branch, and the only one who hasn't yet undergone 'tempering', where her ability to feel is removed by torture to make her a more effective servant.

So far so good. Dill's stumblings through his new ceremonial duties were perhaps a little too reminiscent of Titus Groan's, but I engaged with him, and liked his ambivalent relationship with Rachel. The fact that he can't disguise his emotions because his irises change colour is rather sweet, though in the end nothing is really made of it. (Like everyone else in the city - apart from one lecherous beggar who makes a big deal of Rachel's leather clothes - he has no hint of a sex drive.) The city itself, Deepgate, is well-realised. Campbell plunges us straight into it without spoon-feeding us explanations and history: a little confusing at first but generating an effective sense of its reality. The city comes across as a very real place despite its unlikely nature, with each foundation chain having a name, and each district with its own character, all slipped very effectively into the story.

Sadly, from about halfway through, the subtleties of the story seem to be replaced by action, action, action. The nuances of character fade until everyone is offering the same kind of snappy wise-cracks in moments of danger. One of the things that makes Rachel initially interesting, the fact that she seems prepared to accept, even to wish for, such a horrible fate as 'tempering', is not adequately explored. Also, the history and metaphysics of the world turn out to be less interesting when brought into the glare of narrative than when they were hinted at in the beginning.

But there's enough good stuff here to make it worth the read. Mr Nettle's visit to the thaumaturge springs to mind, and the story of the Soft Men. Campbell has a fertile imagination. I think he might have written a more subtle and atmospheric story if he hadn't succumbed to a frequent curse of current SF/fantasy, which is the notion that there must be as much page-turning action as possible. Some stories benefit from being all fireworks, but you can get a lot from staring into the glowing embers of an old fire.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The city of Deepgate is suspended by chains over a vast abyss. At the bottom of the abyss dwells Ulcis, the fallen god, who collects the souls fed to him by the priests of Deepgate to forge a new army of the dead, an army which will break open the gates of heaven and end the damnation of humanity. For three millennia the newly-dead have been given to Ulcis, and the time of reckoning draws nigh.

In Deepgate the destinies of several characters become entwined. Dill is the last battle-archon in the service of the temple, an angel who doesn't know how to fly. A failed assassin, Rachel, is ordered to train him in the ways of war. Meanwhile, a fallen angel named Carnival haunts the city, feasting on the souls of the innocent on every night of the new moon: Scar Night. A scavenger named Mr. Nettle believes she has taken his daughter, Abigail, and seeks revenge. In the temple itself ancient secrets are being kept, and Presbyter Sypes and the master poisoner Devon separately find themselves in possession of the knowledge that could destroy the city forever, or save it from oblivion.

Scar Night is the first novel in the Deepgate Codex trilogy, which continues with Iron Angel and the recently-released God of Clocks. In writing style it comes across as a mash-up between China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, steampunk and a particularly good Planescape D&D campaign, mixing up styles and ideas with wild abandon. Deepgate itself is a fascinating location, built on immense chains stretching across the abyss with wooden districts suspended by ropes and pulleys which occasionally and spectacularly fail. Travel outside the city across the hostile Deadlands, filled with heathen tribes, is only possible by airship. There's no doubt that Campbell has constructed a superbly interesting world here.

Characterisation is also strong, with the motives and rationales for the protagonists ('heroes' being very definitely the wrong word) all convincingly worked out. However, whilst they are set up very strongly, character development is perhaps a little weak. With the exception of Carnival and Dill, very few of the characters seem to learn much from their experiences and don't change a great deal over the course of the narrative. That said, we are only one-third of the way through the story here and there is no doubt more to come.

The only other criticism that comes to mind is that the book starts fairly slowly as we are introduced to the world. Campbell ratchets up the tension and he has a gift for descriptive prose, but we could perhaps have cut to the chase a little sooner. However, this starting section is also packed with great little worldbuilding and character touches and there is a satisfyingly macabre sense of humour explored more during this opening sequence as well, so it is hard to criticise it too much on that level.

Scar Night (****) is a first novel brimming with confidence, verve and style. It is available from Tor UK and from Bantam Spectra in the USA.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2008
Scar Night was recommended to me but as I read through the first couple of chapters I started to wonder if I had been sold a lemon and I almost put it aside. I'm really glad I didn't for the pace soon picks up and by the end of the book wanting to know what was going to happen next was starting to disrupt my daily routine.
Mr Campbell writes confidently and eloquently but where he really gets it right it where he convinces you to suspend your disbelief and accept that an enormous indutrialised city could be built on chains over a bottomless pit. His descriptions of Deepgate city are difficult to follow but I loved that, feeling like a stranger there, hopelessly lost but following Mr Nettle through the city's alleys, lanes and gardens.
The author has avoided cliche in his characters, even the minor ones, while the leading characters are deep enough to empathise with, even mad Devon. The dialogue between the characters was a pleasure to read, each of them had their own voice, style and for many of them a sense of humour even in the most stressful of situations.
In summary this is a great fantasy novel and I can't wait to read the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not the worst book I've ever read and not the best either. The idea of a city suspended by chains over an abyss is an interesting one at first but starts to seem a bit contrived as the book progresses and I generally felt that the story became more and more 'incredible' as it went on. Although some of the characters are quite interesting others aren't quite so well developed or convincing. Another thing that didn't quite sit right was the fact that although Deepgate is supposed to be quite a hard-nosed, bustling metropolis, characters seem perfectly able to wander around after dark unseen and unaccosted. That said, these weren't serious enough to prevent the book from being quite enjoyable. The author has a great imagination and I'll certainly read the next installment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The city of Deepgate hangs suspended by chains over the bottomless Abyss. It dispatches its souls to everlasting life by casting them into this pit. The Temple's resident angel, Dill, takes his duties very seriously, but is plagued by snails. Rachel, a temple assassin, is disgusted to have been assigned to teach and protect him, while a renegade angel, Carnival, stalks the city drinking it's citizens' blood. Meanwhile, Alexander Devon, Deepgate's official Poisoner is concocting a very special brew. And if the city hasn't got enough to worry about, in the Abyss, the god Ulcis is massing an army of souls, ready to rise and overthrow the natural order.

Plenty have remarked on the parallels here with Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy, a particular favourite of mine, and rhe similarities are clear. Deepgate has the same rambling, decaying vastness as Ghormengast, it is peopled by a similarly wierd and eclectic bunch of characters (the naming conventions are also very Peakian) and the quasi-religious themes will also be familiar. It is a reverential homage, however and Campbell is skilled enough to carve his own story from Deepgate's bedrock.

Overlaid on all this is a good dose of Steampunk imagery, a nod towards Dune and Gordon Dickson's Dorsai! and a whole host of scifi and future fantasy novels and what you get is a ripping adventure yarn. Deeply immersive and genuinely compelling, this turned into a real page-turner for me and I raced through the last few chaptrs, eager to get on to the second in the trilogy. I did wonder if this was a "young adult's book but it deals with ssome very dark themes and imagery and it is most definitely very grown up.

The characters are great fun; Devon the poisoner, Nettle the scrounger, Rachel the assassin, Dill and Carnival the angels, Stypes and Fogwill the priest... all are expertly drawn, interesting and sympathetic. One or two lack real depth, but this is probably because it must be difficult for the author to devote sufficient effort to such a large and varied cast.

The writing is enviably good for a debut of such huge scope. Campbell is no Peake, for sure, but the writing is accomplished nevertheless; there is some glorious imagery and some very well written scenes - moving, exciting and disturbing by turns. It did occur to me that this would make an excellent fim, albeit probably as hard to commit to celluloid as Lord of the Rings...
I loved this and will be paying close attention to Alan Campbell from now on.

`I want life.'
`Life is nothing but degrees of pain and hunger.' said Devon. 'Why cling to such suffering? Like everyone else, are you not simply waiting to die?'
The guard snorted. `There's more to life than waiting for death.'
`What? To breed? Create more snapping mouths to carry your hunger for another generation?'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Scar Night is the first book in a trilogy, and we are introduced to Deepgate, a city suspended by chains over an abyss that is home to a dark god. The denizens of the city, led by their Church, feed souls to the god, Ulcis, to eventually give him soldiers for an army to reclaim heaven.
Here we meet, Dill, the last descendent of a race of angels, now more a scrawny figurehead than an avenger; Rachel, noblewoman-turned-trained assassin; Devon, the chief Poisoner and more than slightly insane; and Carnival, a vampiric angel.

Scar Night is like reading Dickens' London but in a fantasy setting. Every sight, smell, taste and sensation brings Deepgate to life, and we really do feel like we are walking its streets and experiencing it various quarters. For this alone, the imagery and sensualness of the book, I would recommend it to fantasy enthusiasts tired of reading Book 14 in the Quest for the Tolkien Knock-Off plethora of series. It isn't shiny new, but innovative enough to make a new spin on a genre that seems stuck on one book.

His characters are all very complex and we jump from point of view to point of view throughout the book. However, despite this, I didn't really get a sense of empathy for many of them. Only Rachel, the assassin who has not yet gone through the prodecure to dehumanise her, made me care about her in any real sense. Perhaps this was intentional, but I like to have more characters to root on and support.

I will definitely read on in this series, as Campbell's world comes vividly to life on the page, and while it isn't somewhere I'd like to escape to, it's enthralling enough for another visit.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 28 September 2006
Welcome to the world of Deepgate, a city suspended by chains over a vast and mysterious chasm. Only after you have lived your life and died will you find what lies underneath Deepgate at the bottom of the abyss. The religion of Deepgate tells its people that they will find peace when your body is thrown or `sent' to the bottom of the pit where the God Ulcis waits with the noble souls of the dead to greet you. But is this true...? Are the priests or `Presbyters' hiding something? In death do the people of Deepgate find peace when they are cast into the pit? Or for thousands of years has the religion of this chained city been based simply on a myth...? That is what, Rachael, an assassin - known to Deepgate citizens as a Spine - is going to find out whether she likes it or not. Rachael has sworn to protect Dill, a teenage angel descended from a holy bloodline and together driven by a quest to save the city, of Deepgate they must travel deep into the abyss and face Ulcis if they want to succeed in their task. Will the creatures that they have been told are their enemies truly be their adversaries, or will the men they have been taught to respect and admire be their greatest threat...?

Scar Night, is a first novel written by Alan Campbell and also the first volume in the Deepgate Codex and it is a terrific start to what promises to become a thrilling saga. However, you can tell that the author has been heavily influenced by other fantasy classics, such as Gormenghast. Like Gormenghast, if you don't stick with it, Scar Night can be a little bit hard to get into. At the beginning of the book, so many characters are introduced and their role in the city is described in such detail that some readers may get a bit confused or frustrated. However, just stick with it because this is the only criticism I would have of this novel. After you get past this minor hurdle and into the story, the book and characters come alive, and you will empathise with Deepgate's heroes and shudder at the malevolence of Deepgate's villains.

In sum, Scar Night is an excellent first book and will leave you, after a slightly slow start waiting with great anticipation for the next instalment of the saga. The book also has some brilliant one-liners as well, all of which will bring a smile to your face along your trek through a great adventure.
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