Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: City of Ruin

City of Ruin - Mark Charon Newton



I read Nights of Villjamur the first in Mark C Newton’s books of the red sun series, almost two years ago to the day. This was not intentional I just like silly facts. Back then, my 30 year self rated the book 7.9 / 10. I liked it a lot but felt there was something missing.
Most reviewers agree that City of Ruin improves on the first book in every way.  Do I agree? Well let’s see shall we?
City of Ruin is based in the city of Villiren. A city ruled by the gangs, scrambling for dominance. Commander Brynd of the Night Guard is the man charged with protecting the city. Not only does he have to plan the cities defence against an increasing number of reports of gathering invaders, but he also has to contend with a serial killer like no other.
The premise is good, once again the star of the novel is the setting. Villiren oozes desperation. A City brought to its knees and on the brink of despair. Brynd struggles to establish himself as the new commander of the Night guard and get the various factions to see the bigger picture in trying to unite them against the forthcoming invasion.
Several familiar faces return from Nights of Villjamur, Jeryd, Rika, Ramur and Eir are all seen. Jeryd is enlisted as an inquisitor once again to investigate the murders. His pragmatic approach, his struggling marriage and his weakness for food, all serve to endear him to the reader.
However, the other characters mentioned above have slightly weaker outings until about 2/3 on the way through the novel. Ramur was one of the characters I liked best in the opening book of the series. Cocksure, but humbled, his arc was a pleasure to read. Here I struggled to identify him as the same character to begin with. He comes across as whiney and out of his depth. Unsure of himself at all times and the blossoming relationship with Eir is unrecognisable. They are close but not as close and there is no real explanation as to why. Still this trio come into their own later in the novel.
The thing I like most about City of Ruin is the plot. So often in books events unfold nicely at an even pace. The mystery building to a climax. When a battle occurs it seems that all the characters are ready for it. It is a satisfying formula and is the reason why so many authors stick to it. However it is not always realistic.
However, the plot of City of Ruin is. For the majority of the novel we are aware of the forthcoming attack on the city but only a handful of characters seemed concerned about it. The city is largely in denial or regards the threat as to be so far off that they are not concerned about it. Instead, the novel focuses on the individual lives of the characters and their concerns. Jeryd is recruited to investigate a serial killed that cannot possibly be human. We are introduced to Malum, leader of the one of the gangs and learn how he is more than he seems and struggles to maintain control and reputation.
When the war does happen it completely dominates the story as it should. That is not to say the story arcs we’ve been following are left unresolved, they are not, it is just they make way for the wider threat. It magnifies the impact of the attack and makes the story far more realistic. As a reader it made me care about the characters that have been well established previously.
The war itself is well handled. Characters come into their own, their are deaths and there are heroics. There are also betrayals. It is well described and lasts long enough to feel epic but not too long as too outstay its welcome.
Overall City of Ruin improves on Nights of Villjamur. Apart from my disappointment with the handling of Ramur’s character, this is an excellent book. My rating 8.9