Archive for December 14th, 2013

Mark Charan Newton – Nights Of Villjamur

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

It is always tricky when you start reading a series with the second book as there is a serious chance much of the essentials of what has happened before is disclosed in too many references by the characters. Fortunately this is not the case with Legends Of The Red Sun by Mark Charan Newton. I recently read and reviewed the second and third book of the series and each were fairly standalone although some minor references to what happened before is usually unavoidable. Most of the plot of Nights Of Villjamur (2009) proved to be quite different than what I might have guessed.

Here I should kick off with the fact that much of story setup was rather similar to the second book, City Of Ruins. It may seem weird that I am comparing the first book to the second but I cannot escape it. I would have done the same if I had read the books in the right order. A strange murder case forms the starting point of the story and the way it progresses is in several points analogue to the investigation of the second book. The characteristics are of course different, but I had the feeling of deja vu. The second part also follows paths that to some extent are the same. It is fortunate that it is only one of the storylines.

While the murder investigation thread is daftly done the other threads vary in quality. One thing that I should remark is that the text on the backcover of the book gives away a major plot point that happens only halfway in the book. Any surprise is gone beforehand as you can already guess on some of the mysteries early in the book. What bothered me mostly was that the major conspiracy lacked any tension. Newton gives everything away early on and there are no surprises. A stark difference between how he developed the plots in the later books.  There is a lack of subtlety and intelligence that wasn’t presented in a very good way. At times things just seemed somewhat silly while the actions were gruesome. The characters involved simply disappointed me now that I finally got to know them.

The other threads worked better and the characterization was on a decent level, allowing me the learn some characters better that I had not gotten the chance to in the later books. Still they were lacking a bit. Newton didn’t seem to have enough story or time to make more of them. The end of the book was wrapped up surprisingly fast and easy. Perhaps I had gotten a stronger idea of the situation based on the third book which took place in the same location. Of course a writer can improve so it could be that Newton simply did a better job the second time around.

It is hard to say something about the world building when you have read the sequels already and there are few surprises left. Nevertheless it is a unique world with peculiar creations which are a mishmash of familiar fantasy elements. It is an ages old world in which a variety of things have survived from different pasts so you there a strange combinations at times. It has a different flavor than the usual fantasy fare so for me that is always something I am interested in.

So what can I say about the book as a whole? It is weaker in quality than the next two books in the series. If I had read this book first I might not have picked up the next installment very soon. It is nice and original, but not impressive due to some weaknesses in the plot and the characterization that simply make the story not solid and engaging enough. It can be that the way he told the stories in the later books were more to my liking than how he set up this first novel, while others would see it the other way around. I can only say that things get much better, at least in the second book, so if you enjoy this one well enough, you should certainly go for the next.