Mark was awesome enough to send me a PDF copy of City of Ruin, and although it took me a while to read it (about 3 weeks), I’m really glad I did; not only is it an excellent sequel to Nights of Villjamur, it’s also capable of standing on it’s own as an excellent Epic Fantasy / New Weird novel. 🙂
Nights of Villjamur took us to the central city of the Jamur Empire, showing us a world and characters having to contend with a coming Ice Age and much more besides. This book had an incredible atmosphere, very memorable and intriguing characters, and some very strange (but cool) concepts and ideas – and I’m glad to report that City of Ruin continues this trend and builds on what Mark kicked off his series with.
The first thing that grabbed me was the atmosphere of the novel – where Nights was focused, dark and intense, City of Ruin has a more adventurous feel to it; indeed, Mark shows us much more of the Empire and its landscapes, as well as hints of what came before the Empire, fleshing out his already intriguing world more.
Mark also ramps up the action, thankfully not focusing on faces anymore. 😉 Battle scenes are frenetic and tense and I felt as if I was right in the middle of the action, and for those who are squeamish, be warned – Mark makes it clear that war is a violent, gruesome business. There were some very tense moments!
What I also enjoyed about City is that it was a larger novel, a larger story, much bigger in scale than Nights; it’s shown me that Mark can handle a bigger canvas with ease and aplomb, and that he can tackle an Epic just as well as all the previous and current greats. This bodes well for Fantasy and for all the readers out there who like their stories large and sprawling. 🙂 I’ve yet to read Mark’s first novel, The Reef, but I have to add, too, that it would be great to see a standalone from him, after finishing the Legends series, of course. 🙂 I’ve got a feeling that he and China Mieville would be sharing a crown. 🙂
Now to the characters:
Some characters from Nights return in City, and with a vengeance, I might add! Every single one of them has grown, even in the short length of time between novels, fitting more comfortably into their skins; some of my old favorites took paths I would never had guessed at, and a slew of new characters step onto the stage, including one very, very creepy- Nah, I’ll let you meet that one. 🙂 Mark also used these characters to explore many touchy subjects that many readers can learn from, and that created the sympathy in me that really brought the characters to life. Mark really let them live, being much more comfortable with them. 🙂
Plot-wise, the story builds like a runaway Maglev. As the story-strands swirled together and clicked into place, I found myself reading faster and faster, skipping words like ‘the’, ‘and’ and ‘said’ just to get to the meat! Mark stepped up the pace in City, sending the plot into a shattering conclusion that sets the scene for Book 3 and answers many questions while leaving many more to ponder. Mark also manages to meld genres in this book, and very bloody well, I might add; I was a skeptic at first, when certain things began happening, but Mark won me over and left me awed; he took a chance, and in my opinion, it definitely paid off. 🙂
Another thing that really caught my attention was that I was left wondering even about the numerous walk-on characters; Mark managed to leave me with the feeling that not only the main characters have lives and histories and desires, and that even the walk-ons could feature in novels of their own. There’s one in particular, a character that is only mentioned, mind you, that I’m pretty certain will feature in the next book. My point is that Mark left me feeling that the world he had created did indeed have depth and detail and was populated with living, breathing characters, something that was somewhat lacking (in retrospect) from Nights.
All in all I’m once again impressed with Mark as an author and with the tales he writes – he has a great eye for detail, knows how to create characters that resonate with the reader and creates scenes with enough action and tension that I was left breathless at times. This is definitely one of my top reads of 2010, and will definitely cement Mark’s place in Fantasy. I’m a huge fan of Mark’s worlds and characters and I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to reel you in, too. 🙂
9 / 10
Also, you can all look out to another round of character-interviews building up to the release of City of Villjamur in the UK and Nights of Villjamur in the US; that’s right, character-interviews, not author-interviews. 🙂
PS Here’s a treat for those that haven’t yet seen it: the Bantam Spectra (US) cover for Nights of Villjamur!
I like it – very stark and beautiful, though we’re the red tinge? Nah, I’m nitpicking; it’s a beautiful cover that evokes the mysteries awaiting readers in the city. I like it!