Mark Charan Newton – City Of Ruins

I usually have mixed feelings when starting a series with the second book as it could disclose too much information on the first novel. Fortunately this remained very minimal with City Of Ruins (2010) by Mark Charan Newton. This second book of Legends Of The Red Sun takes the reader to a place that is distant from the location of the first novel and where much else is happening so that the events of the first book have little effect on the lives here.

The world of the Red Sun is a very old world in which many relics of the past remain and few know what they do, so that the technology is much like magic. Besides humans there a some other humanoid species and various odd creatures and hybrids that were manufactured with the ancient knowledge in the past but also today. All in all this setting reminded me much of the New Crobuzon novels by China Miéville. It is not as extreme but it comes fairly close. Newton’s world is also less intricate and not full-packed with ideas, keeping a lot of regular fantasy elements. I could almost call it Miéville-light version; something easier to get into than the usual Miéville novel. This is not something negative; it is just a description on what to go on.

Although Newton did spend some time on his world-building, he did not take it full-course. There are a fair number of details where he uses things that are common in our own world, which for me conflicted with the otherworldly feeling. The same thing he used in his story elements. Some of the background components to expand the story’s depth seemed to be taken from typical things from our own society. Perhaps he wanted to add some hidden comments on our own society. To me it didn’t resonate as they did not always seem to fit as I felt I was missing some background picture that could explain it. Now the reader just had to take it for granted.

The story itself is not very complex. There are many intertwined story threads which create a great canvas for the story with many details. This was well done, but as there were so many most of them were rather simple or turned out to be simpler eventually. Some threads could have been expanded into something more interesting but they weren’t.

Another thing that goes hand in hand with the many threads is that Newton uses many character perspectives to tell the story. Doing this provides him with the opportunity to do plenty of characterization. However, using that many means he uses most characters only two or three times and to me he wasn’t able to get the most out of the characters. There was no character that I grew attached to and only a few characters I considered interesting. Most of them remained rather ordinary.

Despite all these minor hickups the story was quite entertaining. As said the structure was well done and I didn’t notice any flaws in the plotting, which kept a steady pace and provided a long and strong finale. It took me some time to pick a novel from this series up as I had some doubts if it would be to my taste but I have been positively surprised. I will not call it great or fantastic, but this is a good novel and certainly recommendable. I will certainly read more of this series.

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