City of Ruin

While I did enjoy Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villjamur (Canada, USA, Europe), I did feel that the novel was plagued by a few shortcomings which put a bit of a damper on my overall reading experience. Earlier this spring, the second volume of the Legends of the Red Sun series garnered many positive reviews, and I was eager to give City of Ruin a shot.

Here's the blurb:

Viliren: a city of sin that is being torn apart from the inside. Hybrid creatures shamble through shadows and barely human gangs fight turf wars for control of the streets. Amidst this chaos, Commander Brynd Adaol, commander of the Night Guard, must plan the defence of Viliren against a race that has broken through from some other realm and already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the Empire's people. When a Night Guard soldier goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Inquisitor Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disappearance the streets of Viliren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human. The entire population of Viliren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall. But how can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?

City of Ruins follows on the heels of Nights of Villjamur, with the narrative taking place a number of weeks following the end of the previous book. Hence, if you haven't read the first volume, there is absolutely no point in your picking up this novel. Building on the plotlines from Nights of Villjamur, this one is another multilayered affair that raises the stakes and sets the stage for what should be a very interesting third installment.

Once again, the aspect at which Newton excels the most would have to be the worldbuilding. As he did with Villjamur, the author's evocative narrative makes Villiren, another dark and brooding metropolis on the brink of war, come alive and the city becomes a character in and of itself.

I felt that too little had been discovered about the Cultists devoting their lives to the study of ancient artifacts and technology in the first volume, something that irked me for I loved the whole concept Newton had introduced. I was thus quite satisfied to find out a lot more about them in City of Ruin. Revelations about the alien invading forces added yet another dimension to a work that already echoes with depth. Though much of what was unveiled regarding that particular storyline will play itself out in future sequels, what glimpses the author provided was more than enough to raise my level of interest in this series.

As was the case in its predecessor's Newton's noirish prose works well and sets the mood just right throughout City of Ruin. The pace is much better this second time around, with less instrospection bogging down the narrative. Yet Mark Charan Newton remains true to himself. And as such, I have a feeling that the social commentary underlying the narrative and the exploration of themes such as humanitarian issues, whether one likes it or not, will always be present in his work.

Going a little easier on introspection allowed the author to improve his characterization. That was the element that left the most to be desired in Nights of Villjamur, in my humble opinion. Though he is well-drawn and three-dimensional, I can't bring myself to like Rumex Jeryd. Too stiff-necked and goodie-two-shoes to feel genuine, he nevertheless remains what is likely the most important POV characters of this tale. Randur may have been clichéd and a little predictable in the first volume, but he was a fun character to follow. The same can be said for about half of this book, until Artemisia is introduced. After that, for some unfathomable reason, Randur becomes a somewhat clueless idiot for the better part of what follows. It was an extremely weird transition, to be sure. The gang leader Malum, though an interesting character in his own right, felt a bit off and didn't seem to fit all that well in this book. But I have a feeling that his importance will be revealed in future installments. His wife, Beami, was a more fascinating protagonist, but her love affair was a bit on the corny side. I particularly enjoyed Brynd's plotline for it shed some light on the secrets of the Night Guard. And yet, I felt that the subplot regarding his socially unacceptable sexual may have been a tad overdone. All in all, the characterization is the facet in which Newton has upped his game the most.

City of Ruin demonstrates that there is much more to the Legends of the Red Sun than meets the eye. Revelations and mysteries hint at a blend of fantasy and science fiction elements that could set this series apart from its peers. Mark Charan Newton ends the book on a high note, making me eager to get my hands on The Book of Transformations. Cool ideas and fascinating concepts make me want to find out what happens next!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

3 commentaires:

Nemes Máté said...

I was one of the winners of the City of ruin contest, but unfortunately I still haven't received the book. :(
I'm anxious to read it though. Is there any chance it is on the way Pat? (hopeful)

Unknown said...

Same here. :(

Patrick said...

Let me check with the publisher...