City of Ruin is the second novel in Mark Charan Newton’s increasingly excellent Legends of the Red Sun series. Not only did he get this one out only a year after the first in the series, Nights of Villjamur, but Newton also does not relent: he keeps building something better and better. If you doubted that Newton was going to be a name to reckon with in the future of fantasy then I can assure you that City of Ruin dispels any doubt you might have. City of Ruin is a brilliant sequel to an already great first entry, leading me to the certainty that the Legends of the Red Sun will continue to be spectacular.
Villiren: 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 coos, Commander Brynd Lathraea of the Night Guard must plan the defense of Villiren 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 goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Investigator Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disappearance from the streets of Villiren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of thousands of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human.
The entire population of Villiren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall.
But how much can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?
City of Ruin retains all that was good in Nights of Villjamur and has outgrown the shortcomings of its predecessor. What was lacking in the first has been added, abnormalities are explained and for the moment, Newton seems to be pulling all stops. Where I thought Nights of Villjamur was only relatively imaginative, City of Ruin blew me away. Unforeseen elements have been called into action and have expanded the richness and the character of this world ten-fold. Things get bizarre, even quirky, in this novel. There is a certain feeling that some of this has just been thrown in for the hell of it, but these discrepancies in the unity of this world’s characteristics add a degree of realism to it.
Part of the reason for all this is Newton’s choice to begin, in terms of setting, from the beginning again, choosing to set the events of City of Ruin not in Villjamur, which we already know well, but in the corrupt and soon to be besieged Villiren. For a start, this immediately adds freshness to the narrative that sequels rarely contain, but would often benefit from. A new city means the opportunity to create a wholly different environment, within the confines of the same world, for the story to unfold and run wild in. Newton managed to create a city unlike Villjamur, while keeping the same brooding overtones that were present in Villjamur. So, Villiren and Villjamur are distinctly different, each with their own type of inhabitants, architecture and problems, yet thematically one retains a familiarity with the other.
A bit too conveniently, the most important characters from Nights of Villjamur turn up for another round of adventure and chaos in Villiren. Some are already near or on their way to the city during the previous book but one does literally just show up at the beginning of the book. A new city also means the opportunity to introduce a number of new characters which pick up the slack that characters killed off or left back in Villjamur. For the most part they are equally as intriguing and entertaining as the characters we already know, but a few, and I really do mean very few, are a bit superficial and kept to the background. Newton’s books are very much about the characters and their struggle, in this book, against unnatural powers, but more importantly, about their personal struggles with themselves, their flaws or with each other.
It would be an understatement to say that the plot of this novel takes a momentous turn in a direction that was unpredictable and is looking to be one of the most exciting bits of this series. Fantasy is famous for its epic battles and City of Ruin deals out its share of it in what has become typical Newton manner: just enough brutality, emotion and realism but without forgoing the awesome. Even more than in Nights of Villjamur the action centers around the book’s title city, which was fine, though a bit more venturing would have been appreciated.
City of Ruin exceeds Nights of Villjamur in many ways, a great accomplishment for a sequel. In its own right, City of Ruin is a quick, detailed, passionate and virtually unputdownable read. This all bodes very well for the Legends of the Red Sun and for future Mark Charan Newton enterprises. A highly recommended read to all who have read Nights of Villjamur and enjoyed it. If you haven’t then I suggest you do, and if it helps your decision at all, I posted my review of it here. No news (that I am aware of) on any sequels though I’m sure it will get around once something is known.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Mark Charan Newton's Website: http://markcnewton.com/
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