3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A solid murder mystery that heralds the start of a terrific new fantasy detective series.,
This review is from: Drakenfeld (Kindle Edition)
I've blown hot and cold with Mark Charan Newton's books over the last couple of years. Nights of Viljamur was fantastic and augured well for a new fantasy series but the follow up, City of Ruin, I found so bitterly disappointing that I largely ignored the next two in the series, although coming to them late - and probably with a less than open mind - I confess I enjoyed them a lot more. Anyway, when Drakenfeld turned up I did sniff at it a bit suspiciously not least because it smacked of historical fiction, something I struggle with at the best of times, but also because I wasn't sure which Newton had written it. Rest assured however that this is the immensely talented Newton that writes good books, and I was well pleased.
Set in a world very much influenced by Ancient Rome, the eponymous Drakenfeld is a rising star of the Sun Chamber, a law enforcement body whose jurisdiction covers the entire Vispasian Union and all monarchies and lands therein. Upon receiving news of the death of his father, Drakenfeld returns to his home city of Tryum to lay him to rest and put his affairs in order. It soon becomes apparent, however, that his father - himself a once prominent member of the Sun Chamber and a force to be reckoned with, let alone lived up to - was living a complex lie, and circumstances surrounding his death are not as straightforward as they at first seem. To add to this mystery, a member of the royal family is murdered during a big party and, as the only Sun Chamber official around, it falls to Drakenfeld to investigate the crime. With all eyes upon him and his own life seemingly at risk from all quarters, Drakenfeld's investigation lead him to the heart of power in Tryum where the truth could upset the delicate balance of the whole continent.
While ostensibly a simple locked-room mystery, Drakenfeld has a lot more going for it than would seem on the surface. Eschewing the mindless violence and protracted slaughter of many of his contemporaries (and don't get me wrong I love a bit of mindless violence and protracted slaughter) it's a thoroughly, charmingly, old-fashioned type of detective mystery where the investigation starts at the crime scene rather than the crime. More Miss Marple than Dirty Harry, what we do get is Drakenfeld, wondering at the depths to which his fellow men will stoop, while still viewing things dispassionately and with the calm, level-headed viewpoint of the professional but, as far as possible, leaving the wet-work to those less bothered by it.
As I would expect from Newton the city of Tryum is beautifully realised encompassing slums and markets, palaces and parks, and while Drakenfeld travels through much of it as the story unfolds it never feels like it's overwhelming the the investigation, although it's a world that bears further exploration. The man himself has a couple of neat 'ticks' that threaten to undermine his entire position within the Sun Chamber and thoroughly hamper his work to boot, but he has friends and relies on them, not least his companion Leana, and all told the whole cast is nicely drawn and reasonably well rounded.
It's not a breakneck ride either, in keeping with the quiet, calm of the main character the book moves at a more considered pace, unravelling the clues slowly and giving the plot time to breathe, and even if you're one of those folks who have the plot figured out and the outcome sewn up halfway through, it will still be enormous fun watching the characters get there themselves.
Drakenfeld is a solid murder mystery novel that paves the way for numerous further investigations to come and shows signs that as the characters develop and grow it will only get better and better. Comparisons to CJ Samsom, Ellis Peters, Lindsey Davis et al are easy to make and if you're looking for something of a change to your normal fantasy diet then you won't be disappointed with Drakenfeld.