Friday, 17 April 2009
‘Nights of Villjamur’ – Mark Charan Newton (Tor UK)
I interviewed Mark Charan Newton around about this time last year and one of the things that he told me was that he was working on was a book called ‘Nights of Villjamur’. Having very much enjoyed ‘The Reef’ the first thing I did was to settle and wait in anticipation for ‘Nights of Villjamur’ to arrive on the shelves.
An advance copy came through the post but before I had a chance to read it Aidan, Adam and James got there first and posted their reviews. I totally trust what they have to say and their praise for ‘Nights of Villjamur’ had me looking forward to reading it even more.
I finally got round to picking the book up last weekend and finished it last night in a fit of ‘I can’t stop reading, I really must find out how it all ends...’ It turns out that everyone was right and my anticipation of ‘Nights of Villjamur’ was well founded...
Villjamur is a bastion of civilisation standing against an impending ice age. It’s also a lot more, being a city full of stories as well as a city with its own story to tell. Banshees mourn the dead while cultists use forgotten technology in the middle of an ancient city of dreaming spires and bridges. The death of the emperor means that the Chancellor is free to advance his own aims, while Randur Estevu’s own aims are honourable in intent but base in their execution... How are the lives of these two men connected to an inquisitor’s investigation of a brutal murder? How are reports of the dead walking the tundra connected with reports of a bizarre genocide on the northern islands of the empire? All the answers, and much more, will be found in Villjamur...
The world of Villjamur stands on the cusp of a gentle slide into oblivion and Newton makes this clear at the outset. The image of the world’s dying sun is prominent as is a sense of futility to everyone’s actions. The need to survive is there but it’s almost as if the book is asking what the point of it all is... This approach establishes the atmosphere of the book in the best way and gives you an indepth picture of the weight of millennia hanging over not only Villjamur but the world itself. It’s a bit of a double edged sword though as this futility can make ‘Nights of Villjamur’ a bit heavy going and really hard to get to grips with.
In interviews that I’ve read, Newton makes no apologies for the influence of authors like Mieville, Vance, Wolfe and Harrison on his work; particularly ‘Villjamur’. I’ve never read anything by Vance or Wolfe (and probably should, where should I start?) but could see the homage paid to both New Crobuzon and Viriconium in terms of the brooding cityscape (something that will stay with you long after you’ve finished) and the attitudes of it’s people. However, I was left wondering if Newton wears his influences a little too obviously. It’s a fine line to walk and the stories within Villjamur’s walls sway things in Newton’s favour.
The bottom line is that Newton writes an engaging tale full of different subplots that all come together to form a picture you’d only half guessed at while you were reading. ‘Nights of Villjamur’ has something for everyone and it’s all good. If you’re after a noir thriller then follow Inquisitor Jeryd down the mean streets as he attempts to solve a murder that has everyone baffled. If you’re after something political then Villjamur is full of competing factions that are all out for power and will stop at nothing to get it. If all you want is a bit of honest thievery and the sound of swords clashing in anger then there is plenty of that as well.
The events portrayed in ‘Nights of Villjamur’ are guaranteed page turners and the characters involved are just as engaging. Newton takes his time going into what it must be like living in a world approaching its end and how this can affect people’s decisions. Some characters stick to what they know whether that’s the upholding of the law or following their own base desires. In a dying world where change can be seen as pointless some characters do develop and these journeys are the ones that are worth following. There is enough going on in these pages to make reading the sequel pretty much essential as far as I’m concerned.
‘Nights of Villjamur’ has it’s (small) faults but remains a book that fantasy fans will enjoy if my reaction is anything to go by. I’ve only just finished it and I’m already waiting to see what happens next...
Nine and a Quarter out of Ten
Read my Interview with Mark and my review of The Reef.
Then have a look at Adam's Review of 'Nights of Villjamur'.
Have a look at James' Review as well as a Guest Post from Mark.
Last, but not least, take a look at Aidan's interview with Mark and Review of 'Nights of Villjamur'...