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4.0 out of 5 stars Not my genre but now a fantasy convert, 17 April 2012
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This review is from: Nights of Villjamur: Legends of the Red Sun: Book One (Paperback)
Now's here's an unusual book. I discovered the author Mark Charan Newton through Social Media. Who says it doesn't work. He has a great blog. If you like all things green and drenched in whiskey then it's for you! He also writes fantasy novels. I have to confess the last one I probably read was Lord of the Rings back when I was sixteen. It's not really my genre so I can probably give a different perspective to the many hard core fantasy readers to whom this book is aimed.
I have to say the story took a lot of getting into but on reflection that was no bad thing. It certainly wasn't because it was poorly written or boring. Far from it. It was intentional as Newton carefully created his world for me. One where an Ice Age is coming to a city called Villjamur, the centre of a millennium old empire. Along the way we are introduced to some very interesting characters all of which play central roles in the unfolding drama. No one particularly dominates the narrative which I liked although that may grate for people used to a main protagonist. Chancellor Urtica, a devious politician who is on a power grab after the unexpected death of his emperor; Dartun, an ancient cultist trying to preserve his life mainly at the expense of others; Brynd Lathraea a closet gay and career soldier, caught up in the machinations of both the politics and mother earth; Investigator Jeryd of the city's Inquisition who is investigating some very strange deaths whilst dealing with a personal crisis of his own making. And perhaps my favourite, Randur, a low born playboy trying to rescue his mother from certain death.
Interestingly the fantasy seems to play second fiddle or at the very least, a supporting role to the journey these characters are caught up in all of which is played out against the impending Ice Age and the social and economic impact this will have on the City. But when it's introduced it really left an impression on me. The Banshees, who mourn the dead as they fall, the living paint (ingenious) that causes death and the undead who are, well, not alive. Perhaps the only `fantasy' element which disappointed me slightly were the species introduced late in the story. They seemed a little unimaginative particularly after some of the earlier creativity and I was desperate for an inventive climax particularly after the buildup.
Newton is a careful writer. I get the sense that everything happens for a reason and is written in a certain way for a reason. I found that very comforting once I had attuned myself to the flow of the novel. It builds slowly, purposefully to an interesting climax which answers many questions raised along the way but leaves enough unresolved to carry you effortlessly into the second book.
All in all a great read. Mark Charan Newton has a convert and also got me hooked and I will be starting City of Ruin shortly.
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