Mark Charan Newton’s debut novel, Nights of Villjamur, is the first in his The Legends of the Red Sun series. The Legends of the Red Sun will consist of four volumes, with the second volume released in 2010 and the third slated for a 2011 release.
An ice age is coming as the sun grows old and red. The people of Villjamur, the mighty fortress city of the Jamur Empire, say the ice could last for fifty years, but there are greater worries than just the coming Freeze. When a powerful politician is murdered, the event sets off a plot that threatens not just the citizens of Villjamur, but also the future of the Jamur Empire itself. Death, magic and war trigger a chilling atmosphere that sets the tone for Newton’s first book of The Legends of the Red Sun series.
The Living City
Characters, magic, and world building are the lynchpins of fantasy novels. While Nights of Villjamur delivers all of these elements, it is the powerful atmosphere of Villjamur itself that kept me hooked. One of the strongest parts of this novel is the vibrant personality Newton has given to the city. He has imbued in it a sense of history and tragedy usually reserved for characters. This attention to the city, its architecture, mood, color and vitality, are what made Nights of Villjamur such a compelling read. The city and people of Villjamur become a living, breathing world under Newton’s confident voice.
A World Reinforced
Some fantasy writers will take time out of their narrative to explore the world they’ve created. However, Newton’s narration style is very focused. He provides enough information to further the plot, but without giving away too much about his world or concepts.
This style of narration reinforces the world he has built for the reader. By accepting the strangeness of the world as reality without explanation, you bring yourself further into the world of the story. Don’t worry, you’ll come to understand the magic, the creatures and the histories, but you’re going to have to be patient.
From All Walks of Life
Take an albino commander of the prestigious Night Guard, an aging city inspector, and a rogue with a heart of gold (or perhaps a baser metal), then mix in magic users, an artistic seductress, and a reluctant empress, and you have an idea of the cast of characters who inhabit Villjamur.
While some of their storylines took longer to develop then others, each had their own charm that set them apart from the clichés they could have become. As strange as the world these characters inhabit is, they are still relatable. From love to betrayal, from murder to justice, I understood each character’s motive, even if I didn’t like their reasons why.
Frost In The Gears
The novel is not without its faults, however. The plot takes a while to get going, and it’s a slow burn until things start coming together. There were also moments when I felt the prose spun its wheels, just waiting for the next plot twist to happen. And this may just be the fantasy geek in me, but I do wish that Newton had indulged a bit and explored some of his more fascinating concepts, like the banshees or the Dawnir, further.
I also felt some characters were introduced and shuffled off rather quickly. I understood them and their goals; I just wish I could have gotten to know them a bit better as well. However, what was explored was absorbing and it’s obvious there are more depths to be plumbed in the upcoming installment, City of Ruin.
Why Should You Read This Book?
Nights of Villjamur is a very well written first novel by a newcomer to the fantasy genre. Brimming with atmosphere, philosophical thought, exciting characters, and intense action, Newton has created a wonderful novel and an exciting new world. You’d be remiss not to check it out. I’m glad I did.
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