Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton

Title: City of Ruin
Author: Mark Charan Newton
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Top
Publishing Date: 4 Jun 2010
Hardback: 400 pages
Series: Second book of the Legends of the Red Sun tetralogy.


Welcome to Viliren! Despite the rapidly changing climate of the Boreal Archipelago and the beginning of an ice age, Viliren still looks like a wealthy and healthy city ruled by free democracy instituted by Portreeve Lutto. However the illusion of greatness disappears quickly as you set foot in the underground where the rotten heart of this city beats, where democracy doesn’t exist and where the king is the intimidating Malum.

Viliren is where the paths of Investigator Jeryd and Commander Brynd cross. Jeryd flees Villjamur and finds himself tracking a mysterious and merciless serial killer in Viliren, while Commander Brynd has the impossible mission of preparing the city defenses against the approaching genocidal Okun tide.

Viliren is also the destination of Randur, Eir, Rika and Denlin who left Villjamur behind on a rickety boat. They have a long and a perilous journey to live through.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

I'm not sure that I like this cover art. The person on the cover, probably Commander Brynd, looks almost manga-like to me. Although, I like Brynd's looking over his shoulder, which probably intends to convey the uneasiness he feels in Viliren. After having read the book, I can think of a few other ideas that, in my humble opinion, would have suited the book's spirit better:

Instead of Brynd, we could have seen Jeryd looking over his shoulder in a dark alley. And not viewed from directly behind him but from a bit higher. Or even a picture of Viliren, from the harbor, the point of a ship visible in the foreground breaking the ice and progressing towards the city.


And I used to think those nights in Villjamur were full of freak shows, Jeryd thought. This place is twice as bad.

If I was asked to write a very short review, I would use the excerpt shown above. Because, ladies and gentlemen, in this second book of Legends of the Red Sun series, Newton is braver. He mixes the same ingredients he let us taste in Nights of Villjamur but his elixir is bolder this time. I imagine there's a risk in being brave, but I think Newton does an excellent job in keeping the reader captivated and surprised, and in creating an unusual setting that is not absurd but that creates an intriguing world full of mysteries and astonishments.

In City of Ruin, Newton gives us back some of the characters that we met in the first book and the reader has the pleasure to discover some very interesting new personalities. Just like in Nights of Villjamur, these characters are alive and they are colourful: some darker than others. The reader ends up caring for them easily.

Even though it starts slightly slower than the first book, City of Ruin quickly picks up pace. The story contains a lot of surprises, unfortunately not all of them good. It also contains a fair amount of military action, which I really enjoyed. As I mentioned earlier, it is braver in including unusual fantasy elements. I especially loved the horror-scented parts.

An aspect that I appreciate very much in books running well balanced parallel stories is the lack of a single central hero and the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the protagonists. All the characters add colour to the tale however none of them is indispensible. Therefore, the reader is always left anxious about the fate of their favorite character while reading about their actions.

Newton also continues his world building in this second book of the series. The reader is given more information about the various aspects and the history of this world, which answers some of the question marks appearing in the reader's mind throughout both books. At the same time, it opens up more questions, hopefully to be answered in the future installments.

I was lucky enough to be able to read Nights of Villjamur and City of Ruin back to back. What a treat this was! If you are looking for a full-bodied fantasy series with pleasantly unusual traits and satisfying twists and turns then pick up your copies. I absolutely loved both books and I'm looking forward to reading the third installment.

Rating: 9.5/10


"Amusing that you assume merely seeing will confirm reality. If one sees a stump of a tree in a field at dusk, it may resemble the form of another human, and your fears may creep in, but it is still a tree. One should question what is being seen, at all times." - Artemisia

"When someone has no future, they look in the other direction" - Malum

"It takes one individual genius to recognize another" - Bellis


  1. "Newton is braver"
    That sounds morethan promising. I read and liked Nights of Villjamur. Since I read your good review I'm even more eager to put my nose into City of Ruin.

    Beside this I look forward to your reviews of Demon's Bane and Farlander.

  2. Thanks!

    I'm reading a paper copy of Demon's Bane and I have an electronic copy of Farlander so I'm reading them both at the moment. It's just that I'm reading Demon's Bane faster so I'll review it first definitely.