Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton

Title: Nights of Villjamur
Author: Mark Charan Newton
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Publishing Date: 5 Jun 2009
Hardback: 400 pages
Series: First book of the Legends of the Red Sun tetralogy


It is getting colder every day in Villjamur. Its inhabitants, much luckier than the thousands of refugees camping at the gates, are trying to get ready for the Freeze, the ice age that's going to last 50 years.

Villjamur is home to investigator Rumex Jeryd who finds himself working on a mysterious murder case. Villjamur is the destination of Kapp Brimir, a young man native to Folke, who is trying to save his mother under a false identity. Villjamur is what commander Brynd Lathraea's army is protecting. It is where Tuya Daluud is working... It is a city where, on a typical night, you would hear a Banshee keening in the distance, see a flash of magic with the corner of your eye, or hear a lute playing sevenths in some tavern nearby, accompanied by the dreary tune of an off-key singer. This is a city where at night you would easily see shadows stepping out of alleyways behind you, or hear the sound of ghostly feet scuffing on the cobbles. Villjamur is a city that breeds paranoia... and with good reasons...

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

I liked the cover art when I first saw it, well before reading Nights of Villjamur. After reading the book, I think it represents very well the picture of the city that the story is painting. Majestic but old, snow covered but dark, beautiful but dangerous...


The irony of the weather, I started to read Nights of Villjamur, a book that tells the story of people who face an ice age, when we had been living the coldest days in fifty years. Anyway...

It's hard to live up to the expectations, especially when the expectations are set extremely high after numerous highly praising reviews. This was the case with Nights of Villjamur when I had the opportunity to read it. When I think about it, I should have read this book long time ago. Not that I read all the books as soon as they're released but some of the bloggers whose tastes I trust, have posted excellent reviews about it. So, I should have listened to these reviewers and read one of the best books of 2009 in 2009.

Nights of Villjamur is a fast-paced and strongly-captivating book. It sticks to your hands and it becomes very hard to even take a break. I remember, by the time I reached chapter 9 I was totally sold. All I could think of was the story and its various characters who are not flat or black and white. In this book, the evil is not pure evil, the good is not dressed in white. They are multi-dimensional and they are believable. In the book, there are also many enthralling story threads running in parallel and its 46 chapters are pretty well-balanced.

In this first book of the Legends of the Red Sun tetralogy, Newton has created a very interesting world with numerous races. In the very beginning, I thought that the story was unfolding on Earth, in a very far future. Because the sun is red (probably a red giant) and it is dying, just like our sun will be in 5 billion years. However, it soon becomes obvious that it's about a planet with two moons.

The magical system is very smart and, I dare say, logical. I liked the way the magic worked, the way magical items are worked and the dangers involving untrained use. I'm not going to get into more details as I don't want to spoil it. I think you'd like to discover it yourselves.

Please don't hit me for being such a stereotype fantasy reader but one of the things that I first check in a fantasy book is a map. It's just that I like to visualize the world and keep it in my head while I read the story. To tell you the truth, the lack of a map didn't bother me much in Nights of Villjamur but I heard that the paperback might get a map yet.

I don't want to get into discussing things like New Weird or Old Peculiar, and I'm not going to pretend that I can do a good job at it. All that I know is that Newton has created an amazing story that dances among various genres and sub-genres. It is a dangerous thriller but it also contains traits of horror. It is fantasy but it also touches science-fiction. All this is mixed so well in this book that it was a true delight to read.

If I had read Nights of Villjamur in 2009, the year of its publication, it would have been one of my top two books of 2009. Now that I read in 2010, even though the year is very young, it's going to be hard to best it. The bar is raised very high.

Rating: 10/10


"Remember, this city is a city of legends. Long have poets written about the nights of Villjamur" - Urtica


Mark Charan Newton pays tribute to Arthur C. Clarke by citing Clarke's third law in Nights of Villjamur: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."


  1. I really need to get this book now. Thanks for the review. I hear the next one's even better, too.


  2. Thanks Seak!

    I'm currently halfway through the 2nd book, City of Ruin and it's been great so far. It looks like another top class book.

  3. I enjoyed Mark's novel in the fullest last year and for 2010 I am don't only plan to read "City of Ruins" (which I see that is gathering second good opinion already ;) ), but also Mark's debut novel, "The Reef".

  4. Yes, I remember having read about The Reef on Graeme's blog last year. I'd love to review it too when I find some time later during the year. But City of Ruin first :).

  5. That's so good to hear. I wish it came out in the US earlier than June of this year. What was that Book Depository, did you just call my name?

  6. LOL! Book Depository is great with its free shipping worldwide and all. :)