Cover illustration: Benjamin Carré
NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR
BOOK ONE OF LEGENDS OF THE RED SUN
MARK CHARAN NEWTON
Publisher: Tor UK
Publishing date: 5 June 2009
Paperback out: 4 June 2010
On the cover:
An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where cultists use forgotten technology for their own gain and where, further out, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra.
When the Emperor commits suicide, his elder daughter, Rika, is brought home to lead the Jamur Empire, but the sinister Chancellor plans to get rid of her and claim the throne for himself.
Meanwhile, a senior investigator in the city inquisition must solve the high-profile and savage murder of a city politician, whilst battling evils within his own life, and a handsome and serial womanizer manipulates his way into the imperial residence with a hidden agenda.
When reports are received that tens of thousands of citizens are dying in a bizarre genocide on the northern islands of the Empire, members of the elite Night Guard are sent to investigate. It seems that, in this land under a red sun, the long winter is bringing more than just snow...
There is one thing that can annoy me to the point that it seriously hampers my enjoyment of a book: How a word is pronounced. This may have something to do with me being Norwegian, sometimes my Norwegian and English pronunciations will battle for superiority. It happened with the name Lathraea in this book. In Norwegian it would be Lath-ra-eh-ah. Fortunately Twitter exists so I could ask the author and get told that it is actually pronounced La-threy-a. -The wonders of modern technology put to good use.
Nights of Villjamur is medieval fantasy of the type they used to make back when vampires didn't sparkle. It can seem pretty standard if you list the elements present: Princess, rogue, warrior, and conspiracy. But if you also list zombies, detective, and environmental disaster, it becomes clear that this is something that is fresh and exciting.
One of the central storylines is that of a murder investigation. Newton uses this to show us much of the workings of the city of Villjamur. The investigation is also used to uncover several other strands of the story, and this is done in a way that feels natural and not forced. It is also done in a way that always leaves you wanting more. I found that as I progressed in the book my breaks became fewer and further apart. The pace of the story really drives you along, and the pages fly.
Most of the story happens in the city of Villjamur, and we get glimpses of most parts of the city throughout the story. And I for one really got a good feeling of how the city functions. Both the architecture and the people of the city are well realized. I never felt that there was something left out that needed to be known about this location. That being said, there are only tantalizing glimpses of the world outside of the city. You get told there is a larger world out there, but you only gets to see parts of it. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact I think it helps the book that Newton has concentrated on showing us the city. And of course there will be sequels to the book that more than likely will show us much more.
One thing that I really liked in this book was the way Newton handled the winter. Most people probably don't think much about that, but when you grow up in Norway with four months of snow a year you notice if it's done badly, and Newton has definitely pulled it off. The scenes with snowball-throwing made me both nostalgic and guilty about my own childhood.
This book is definitely going onto my list of favourites. I would like to recommend it to anyone who likes a good story. It's brilliantly written, and sucks you in in the way all great books should.
Mark Charan Newton is certainly an author to keep an eye on for the future.
Note: The sequel City of Ruin will be published in the UK 4 June 2010.
LINKS: Mark Charan Newton Tor UK