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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nights of Villjamur
In Nights of Villjamur, Mark Newton has managed to combine several threads in one compelling story. Part Day after Tomorrow, part Kim, it is a fantasy tale that melds ideas from the east and west. Boiled down to its basic components, a boy tries to find a necromancer to keep his mother from dying. In doing so, he must get help from one of the local cults to find a...
Published on 14 Sep 2010 by Jan Kostka

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dense
The author writes that some will only get a third through, and give up, I took this as a personal challenge and made it half way. I couldn't care about the characters, it was all over the place, I never knew who was fighting for what faction, or even who were the "goodies". I do like my fantasy and my books to be quite simple, so maybe I'm just not intellectual...
Published 9 months ago by Mrs. Nicola Fusco


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nights of Villjamur, 14 Sep 2010
In Nights of Villjamur, Mark Newton has managed to combine several threads in one compelling story. Part Day after Tomorrow, part Kim, it is a fantasy tale that melds ideas from the east and west. Boiled down to its basic components, a boy tries to find a necromancer to keep his mother from dying. In doing so, he must get help from one of the local cults to find a Necromancer. The backdrop of this is a planet whose sun is dying - causing a long winter to set in. There is a dynastic change, political intrigue and undead armies - but not your run of the mill undead because there are golems and zombies working against each other.
Even then all is not as it necessarily appears. A prime minister is seeking to kill-off the current dynasty and replace them. Refugees are being systematically killed, as well as the inhabitants of an island which the dynasty is at war with, yet...
There are signs that this seemly fantasy novel is not all fantasy. Action quickly escalates as horrible murders are discovered inside the city and on the frontiers. Something is brewing and the inspector, Rumex Jeryd will find out what not matter what it costs him.
Mr Newton has done a good job building a world and teasing information out of his characters to tell you about it. The characters are ones which you either like or hate, but all of them will be approached with caution. It has the feel of a medieval town in the Far East, but there is always something brewing just below the surface and he does his best to keep you guessing. No one escapes this story unscathed and you feel like the scars may last, but it seems like we have to wait to second book for more answers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique World told through a Beautiful Voice, 15 Nov 2011
By 
M. J. Aplin "Fantasy-Faction" (Weston Super Mare, Somerset, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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If you didn't live through the Golden Age of Speculative Fiction (I didn't) and haven't gone back and read some of the fantastic 1930's-1950's novels (I have), you are certainly missing out. Today, Fantasy Novels and Science Fiction novels tend to be more character based than they were back then. Back in this `Golden Era' the novels tended to be focused on the setting. The locations within these novels really seemed to live and breathe - they left you with that `oh, I wish I could visit there!' type feeling. In modern fantasy / sci-fi though, we seem to focus more on characters. What seems to have happened is that we've kind of accepted that `medieval' type setting and authors have enjoyed being able to create their stories within that kind of world. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Painted Man, think of those worlds. Although they all have different rules and such - they feel quite similar.

Well, there are critics who really, really hate this aspect of fantasy. They actually play on it a bit, saying that `fantasy is all the same' and try to overemphasise these kinds of similarities. What I'd like to do though is invite a critic to try and do that to the book well will be reviewing today, this is: Mark Charan Newton's book: `The Nights of Villjamur'. I challenge them to do this because there is next to nothing within this novel that isn't unique or at least rare within our genre.

An Ice Age is coming (OK, so that reminds us of another Fantasy Novel - but that's one of the last things that will be familiar) and the ancient city of Villjamur is getting ready to shut its gates and wait it out. The well populated Islands that surround Villjamur are in a state of panic and realise that there is no way that they can survive the cold when it hits. They flee to Villjamur in hope of refuge, but their city is already full and they cannot take any more people within their walls.

Already, I hope you're intrigued, but I really struggle to do these early events justice. The build up of fear in the early chapters and the beautiful descriptions of a unique city that is full of unfamiliar creatures, races, architecture and cults is phenomenal. Not even a quarter-way through the book you will feel as though you have visited this amazing world and that it is completely new. I think this is quite unique in modern fantasy as I have said and a reason so many fans have gotten behind Mark's work.

Essentially the novel draws you in with a sense of uncertainty. You want to see how things are resolved and what will happen to this world, which seems to be in a state of panic. This feeling of panic and uncertainty is pressed all the more when the Emperor kills himself and leaves Villjamur without a male heir. Instead, they have to call upon his daughter who is off in a far away land following rituals completely foreign to Villjamur.

Once the scene is set the characters begin to take shape. It is hard to identify the protagonist, because there are three characters who could argue that title; Commander `Brynd', Investigator `Jeryd' or Island Boy `Randur'. Each has their own interesting storyline that until the very end of the novel are fairly independent of each other and this is a technique that works very, very well.

Jeryd is investigating the murder of a high profile politician. The investigation takes him down into the darker side of the city. He speaks with a number of shady characters, races and creatures along his journey, perhaps my favourite are: `The Banshees'. They wonder around, minding their business until someone is killed. Instantly they are compelled to scream out and dash towards the location that the individual is killed. It's quite eerie having them described to you for one, but even more eerie is when the characters describe hearing them and you are left wondering who has died. Of course Jeryd's investigation into the murder takes you down a number of unexpected routes and you will find out that things are far more complicated than just your typical murder.

Randur seems to have arrived in the city with some kind of task in mind. I will state now - Randur is the coolest character there has ever been within the Fantasy genre. He is attractive, he is lean, athletic, women fall over him (not in a cheesy-traditional sense), he is loveable, he isn't a goody-two shoes - dammit, he is just cool! His story progresses from a kind of illegal immigrant exploring the city through to a young man who is within touching distance of political events. This begins when he starts to teach the new empress's sister (Eir) how to dance and use a sword. You can see where this is leading, but the dynamics of their relationship (high born and low born) and great and the fact that Randur lives life so close to the edge, whilst she has been sheltered away makes for some fantastic dialogue between the two.

Finally, we have Brynd. We begin the novel by seeing much of the action through his eyes. He is the commander of `The Night Watch'; a group of soldiers who have enhanced abilities. He investigates some of the strange events that are occurring on the surrounding islands. His story starts off as a way to show us as readers what is going on outside Villjamur, but his role does grow and the ending for this character certainly sets up us for a promising second novel (which is already out by the way!).

So, I've tried to tell you about the novel without spoiling things - quite a difficult challenge... so sorry if I've failed or left you a bit perplexed! What you need to know about this novel is that some of the very best elements of fantasy come together in this single novel and I would argue that it is one of the finest examples of `fantasy literature' out there today. You have exciting, intelligent plots, an unusual world, a unique usage of technology, a range of species that are fairly irregular in fantasy as well as some new ones that are completely unheard of and finally, Mark Charan Newton as the author has some of the most beautiful prose I have been lucky enough to stumble upon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A standout piece of fantasy fiction, in a crowded marketplace!, 3 Dec 2012
Nights of Villjamur is the debut novel from Mark Charan Newton, but you would not think it for a moment. Villjamur, and the fantasy world in which is set, seems just as fleshed out as any setting in any long running series too. It certainly does not feel like the first book, from an author stumbling into a crowded genre. Mark Newton has arrived on the scene, and he is certainly proving with this series that he can hold his own against other literary giants in the genre, like George R R Martin, Robert Jordan, David Gemmel and Joe Abercrombie.

I don't want to go too in depth into the plot of the novel, as there are already reviews out there that talk a lot about the characters and the story. I would rather you read it and explore this fantastic world. Mark Charan Newton is a fantastic guide in this respect. He doesn't dawdle and takes forever to show you every nook and cranny around Villjamur, but he pulls you by the hand a whips you through the streets at a breakneck pace, leaving you feeling breathless, but in awe, at the end.

What really makes this book so great though are the characters. Each main player is distinctly different, and each has their own story to tell. Mark doesn't waste time on exposition. He lets you explore the characters, and you find a little more about them from chapter to chapter, sometimes with very shocking revelations.

I mentioned Joe Abercrombie earlier, and that was for a reason too. That was because I was reading Abercrombie's 'The Blade Itself' around the same time as I read this book. I found that Mark's style of writing was very similar, and made for a great read. If you like the books of Joe Abercrombie, then I am sure you will also enjoy this book immensely (maybe more).

This book feels like a breath of fresh air, in this genre, and by the last page you are felt wanting more. Luckily there are more books already out in this series for you to collect and get your teeth into.

Don't waste any more time reading my review though.....I urge you to click and buy this book now. It will not disappoint you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dense, 27 Jan 2014
By 
Mrs. Nicola Fusco (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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The author writes that some will only get a third through, and give up, I took this as a personal challenge and made it half way. I couldn't care about the characters, it was all over the place, I never knew who was fighting for what faction, or even who were the "goodies". I do like my fantasy and my books to be quite simple, so maybe I'm just not intellectual enough, but I read for enjoyment, and I did not enjoy this!
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77 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly promising debut from an exciting new British talent, 31 May 2009
In recent years Tor, in the UK at least, have developed something of a reputation for publishing more serious, innovative fantasy. China Miéville has been around for a while, but new, exciting authors have emerged from the Tor stable: Alan Campbell, Hal Duncan, Adrian Tchaikovsky. Something all these authors have in common is that they've delivered novels that deviate from the norm, that are a cut above much of the bubblegum fantasy being peddled around at the minute. Their novels actually try to do something a little different.

Mark Charan Newton is the latest new talent to emerge, and with his debut effort Nights of Villjamur, it's safe to say that he continues this innovative, more serious tradition. He's joined their ranks - and he fits in very comfortably indeed.

An ice age is looming. In its wake, thousands of refugees descend upon the 'Sanctuary City' of Villjamur, hoping for shelter from the impending ice. But there's trouble at the top - the emperor is growing increasingly paranoid about his position, and his suicide leaves a vacuum in government at the worst possible time. Brynd Lathraea, Commander of the elite Nightguard, heads out into the Boreal Archipelago to escort the emperor's daughter, Rika, home to take the throne. Yet other political factions are waiting to play their hands...

At the same time: Investigator Jeryd of the city's Inquisition finds himself investigating the mysterious murder of a councillor, while trying to patch together his own failed personal life; a young womaniser arrives in the city with his own hidden agenda; and reports come in of some sort of massacre on the northern islands of the empire. In this land under a red, dying sun, events are about to come to a head...

Several things become apparent after reading just a few chapters of Nights of Villjamur. The first is that Newton writes very fluidly, with a stylistic and - dare I say it - more literary flourish than you often find in fantasy. His prose is often refreshingly noir, and is pleasingly evocative and visceral. Furthermore, he strikes a fine balance between description and action, deftly avoiding clumsy info-dumps. The pacing is very good; at no point does the narrative get bogged down.

What also quickly shines through is Newton's worldbuilding, which is both innovative and beguiling. To my mind, the real star of the novel is the city of Villjamur itself: a hulking, brooding mass of humanity laced in snow. Newton imbibes the city with real life and vitality, from the glittering spires to the most rancid hovels. The city has a pulse, a heartbeat - it's a living entity. This is clearly something that Newton wanted to get across, and he achieves this with aplomb. The wider setting - the Boreal Archipelago - is hauntingly beautiful; I could clearly envisage these wintry lands beneath a bleeding, dying sun.

There's a lot of cool stuff in Newton's world, and I won't remark much on this to avoid spoiling anything. Suffice to say that I think the whole idea of the cultists and their ancient technology is a very fine one indeed, an idea with almost limitless possibilities. I really like the whole idea of men and women devoting their lives to these ancient technologies, and in some cases becoming obsessed with the results of their studies.

Newton proves just as adept at characterisation as he does with his worldbuilding and prose, if not more so. There are some strong characters here, from the lonesome, melancholy Tuya, to the albino commander Brynd (whose personal life is almost as dangerous as his professional one), to the noir-ish Jeryd, who knows he's screwed his life up and doesn't know how to fix it. Newton's strength is that he understands how human emotions work, and subsequently his characters feel like fully fleshed-out individuals. He creates relationships that are both believable and, in Jeryd's case, touching. These are people you can find sympathy and anger for, depending on who they are and what they do.

Nights of Villjamur isn't your usual by-the-numbers fantasy story. This is a tale about humanitarian issues, about politics, about relationships, about surviving. Newton manages to deal with a number of themes and issues, exploring them without bludgeoning the reader over the head with them. We see heroism, we see the dangers and vileness of right-wing politics, we see love in its different guises. Against the moody backdrop of the city, it's a heady, enthralling mix.

Some aspects did niggle a little. I never really got a physical feel for the rumel race, couldn't quite picture them properly, so I think a little more description would have helped. One or two events seemed a little contrived, and I would have liked to have seen some aspects - the anarchist group, the power struggle between Rika and Chancellor Urtica - developed more. I would also have liked a little more resolution at the end of the novel, but then it is clearly labelled as the first book in a series, so perhaps that particular criticism isn't fair.

All things considered, Nights of Villjamur is a very strong debut epic fantasy novel. Liquid prose with noir stylings evoke a brooding city in all its glory and despair, filled with believable characters and dozens of small innovations that make the world that bit more intriguing. This is a grown-up fantasy that touches on real-life concerns, and this is where fantasy is at its most potent and relevant. Newton is certainly a new talent to watch, and I look forward to the next in the Legends of the Red Sun series...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, original and just what the fantasy genre needs !, 18 Sep 2011
By 
Mr. C. J. Howard "Chris" (South Wales) - See all my reviews
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It really baffles me why people have given this book a bad review?

The fantasy genre has been becoming so stale and tired of late that almost every book has the same generic blue print. Young boy or girl who is poor, gets involved in a huge plot and becomes the unlikely hero, on the journey they meet a wizard, elf and dwarf who help them in some way to fulfil their quest. Its been done so many times before and quite frankly I am sick of it.

I stopped reading fantasy a while ago as I was so tired of the same old twists and plots, but recently decided to read 'Nights of Villjamur' after seeing reviews about Mark Charan Newton, a new fresh British author who's books were getting very mixed and interesting write ups. I have to say that 'Nights of Villjamur', along with 'City of Ruin' and 'Book of Transformations' are three of the best fantasy books I have ever read.

All three books in the series are in sequence but can be read as stand alone novels. The places, history and plots are so fresh and new, that they are simply fantastic, and it is nothing like I have read before (and I have read a lot of fantasy), there is so much going on that it keeps you hooked to the very end of the novel. Its just what the fantasy genre needed and please dont compare this book to 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Game of Thrones', like people always do, its like comparing yoghurt to meat and potato pie. Fantasy has to move on otherwise it would get boring, and Mark Charan Newton has certainly done this as far as I am concerned.

Nights of Villjamur and the other books in the Red Sun Series have revitalized my love of fantasy and its an amazing ripping yarn. Just give it a go and keep your mind open. If you really fancy reading new fantasy with fresh ideas and are bored of the same generic stories, I urge you to give this book a go - simply fantastic !
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, but......., 29 Mar 2010
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a complex and ambitious piece of fantasy which is both a good and a bad thing. The author presents a world on the edge of an ice age (the Freeze) where the privileged few are preparing for a few decades of difficulty while many of the rest of the unfortunate population will be left to their own devices. This is a world populated mainly by humans, but there are a few sentient non humans in the cast too which makes for a potentially more interesting set of characters.

Added into the mix here we have a scheming chancellor, various weird religions, cultists who use ancient technology and the loyal Night Guard there to act as the Empire's special forces.

And there's the trouble really, there is almost too much going on and what could have been a truly fascinating world and premise is bogged down by complexity, too many characters and a strange writing style. By strange writing style I mean that it veers from the good to the cliché and from the flowing prose to the stilted with far too much regularity. With the exception of the head of the Guards, you actually fail to connect with almost any of the characters and while the second half of the book is an improvement, overall it just about makes 3 stars. But, it has to be said, the pace and plot really picks up in the second half and it is a shame that this is not matched in the first 200 pages as the author's focus is on the world building rather then getting the reader absorbed in the plot.

It is a real shame, because there are some great ideas in here. I feel the author would have benefited from a more critical and guiding editor who might have helped shape and tighten the book. It does leave a lot of open plot lines to be picked up in the next book, but I think I shall wait for the reviews before deciding to pick it up or not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First but not last, 4 Dec 2012
Having read a lot of Fantasy and Sci-fi novels I was passed this book to read and since then I have read the rest of the series including some short stories that Mark has written, all of which revolve around the universe in which the books are set.

I found it a good, challenge to the standard "the good guy always wins" scenario you tend to see a lot of.

Currently I am waiting on the fourth book to come out, so hurry up Mark and get this done please :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!, 30 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Nights of Villjamur: Legends of the Red Sun: Book One (Kindle Edition)
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Mark creates some excellent characters and tackles some really interesting topics throughout the book. It is also not your typical "fantasy" book. It is one of the few "fantasy" books I've read recently that felt like it was in an original setting. Well worth the read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Nights that say Niiii, 11 July 2012
By 
Ahimsa Kerp (Portland) - See all my reviews
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Some books you can just tell that you like from the very beginning. This was one such case.

The world-building was creative, the prose was good, the characters varied and fully-formed, and the plot sweeping.

It's not perfect--the plot seemed a bit rushed and the pacing was at times uneven. But these are minor concerns.

Overall, this is a terrific book that hits a sweet spot somewhere between George RR Martin and Fritz Leiber.
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