Reviews

Drakenfeld

Drakenfeld is a flawed yet appealing hero and Newton has wrought a fast-paced fantasy thriller which should appeal to readers of C.J. Sansom

- Independent on Sunday

“Drakenfeld is a contagiously optimistic novel, from its politics to its characters. Newton’s ancient-styled world also belies the real nature of his novel: this is a cutting-edge political thriller that for the most part, wouldn’t be out of place in a major city like London or New York or modern day Rome…”

- io9.com

“What Newton has come up with will go down well with those who appreciate politics in their fantasy… the plot device of a peripatetic investigator roaming an empire whose cracks are seriously starting to show offers limitless possibilities; let’s see where Newton takes them.”

– Mail & Guardian

The several evenings I spent reading it were so perfectly pleasant that I struggle to recall the last fantasy novel I felt such unabashed fondness for.

- Tor.com

“… this is a grounded and realistic example of secondary world-building that works well as an intelligent locked-room mystery and also gives us a cerebral, multi-layered protagonist… a world that’s challenging and provocative without falling into grimdark cliches.”

- SFX magazine.

“… reading this novel is like sinking into a good massage. Newton’s prose is leisurely and relaxing… This is not alterna-history noir. Tryum isn’t ancient Gotham, classical New York, or sword-and-sandals Chicago, and its mean streets never feel that mean. I don’t think Newton was going for that; Drakenfeld isn’t even an alienated PI working outside the system to make Tryum a safer place for a family he no longer trusts himself to love. He doesn’t have PTSD, a genre trope for hardboiled detective novels… Drakenfeld is not disillusioned with the system; Drakenfeld is the system. He’s rigorously by the book, deeply invested fostering legislative justice, and his pedantic observation of details ultimately useless to his case reflect his love for the common folk of Tryum and the myth of peace in the Royal Vispasian Union itself.”

— Strange Horizons

… richly written and always engaging work

—SciFi Now Magazine

“As a Romanesque detective story – an “I-Sherlockius” perhaps? – there’s a lot to enjoy in this novel. I understand that Drakenfeld is the first of a series, if successful. I sincerely hope that that is the case. This is a solid, enjoyable page-turner with a wide appeal that I would personally like to read more of.”

—SFF World

City of Ruin

Newton combines strange and vivid creations with very real and pressing concerns with estimable commitment and passion.

—China Miéville

“A deft melding of murder mystery, gang warfare, corrupt politics & full-blown war… a rewarding experience.”

—SFX Magazine

City of Ruin is the kind of book you’d expect an established author to turn out whilst writing at the top of their game, perhaps as their career-defining moment. You wouldn’t expect a twenty-something, fledgling novelist to deliver a novel of such quality – and for that Newton deserves special credit. This is an enthralling tale of bizarre technology, lost civilisations and the various facets of human nature. Masterfully constructed, potent with meaning and wrapped up in wonderfully evocative prose, City of Ruin has propelled Newton into the ranks of epic fantasy’s finest writers.”
—Speculative Horizons

City of Ruin is violent, dark, bloody, with a noir feel to it but the writer infuses this story with enough hope and love to make it just shy from being hopelessly Grim and Gritty. And it is in the depth of his characters that I found the connection I am always and forever expecting to have with the books I read… The female characters here are women on their own right, never in relation to other characters. They are distinctive, diverse and interesting. From Beami, to Eir, Rika and Artemisia all of them play a huge rule in the book (although they have less scenes than I wished them to have) and in fact, I would go as far as to say that when the time comes (OMG huge awesome battle in the end), the women totally saved the day and look: without having to use their vaginas. Kudos to Mark Charan Newton… If you can’t tell, I loved City of Ruin, it is definitely one of the best Fantasy novels I read this year: it is creative but also weird, violent yet hopeful. It has sex and love, tears and bloodshed plus strong characters to root for. Recommended.”
—Book Smugglers

“Newton fills his novel with political and social commentary, reflecting on the state of our world, our culture and our cities through the destruction of those in his novel. Beyond the parallels between Villiren and Los Angeles (with a bit of London thrown in, I expect), Newton explores racism, sexuality and prejudice, though never hits you over the head with his philosophies… City of Ruin takes the best of many genres and blends them together into a refreshing mosaic, never quite letting the reader get comfortable with their preconceptions, and constantly pushes at the boundaries of imagination. If City of Ruin is an example of the (New?) New Weird, then it might not be as brain-bending and weird as I’d feared, but it is bloody good.”
—A Dribble of Ink

City of Ruin also has a rich and diverse content, from romance, including as befits the new weird sub-genre, one of the strangest such, to intrigue, mysteries and of course brutal battles since the title is apt for sure. The novel builds up relentlessly and then in the last hundred pages or so it becomes all “heart-stopping” action, so much so that even after knowing how it ends and I was still enthralled by that sequence. The last chapter has one of the most poignant endings I’ve read recently while the previous two chapters set up the next installment in the series. With this novel Mr. Newton shows that Nights of Villjamur was no fluke and he is entering the rank of premier fantasists working today.”
—Fantasy Book Critic

“…in this second book of Legends of the Red Sun series, Newton is braver. He mixes the same ingredients he let us taste in Nights of Villjamur but his elixir is bolder this time. I imagine there’s a risk in being brave, but I think Newton does an excellent job in keeping the reader captivated and surprised, and in creating an unusual setting that is not absurd but that creates an intriguing world full of mysteries and astonishments.”
—Between Two Books

The Book of Transformations

Newton’s skill lifts the story beyond what might, in the hands of lesser fabulists, have been merely a string of clichés. This is a remarkable catalogue of transformations, embodied in the character of Lan, a “transwoman” making the arduous journey from male to female, from circus performer to an individual whose abilities will help to bring change to a city under threat from forces of evil within and without. The Book of Transformations is a dark and original vision.

The Guardian

“The book also scrutinizes the moment that utopian socialistic aspiration turns into anarchist revolt, and when enlightened absolutism becomes an oligarchial dictatorship. Transformations marks a turning point in the series as well – the climax of the internal politics and the dawn of a more external focus. The characters themselves undergo a series of transformations: static definitions of gender, class and species are all evolved over the course of the book. Transformation is a broad topic, but Mr. Newton approaches it from every conceivable direction. This is a book that, like many of its Dying Earth predeccesors, will provide grist for criticism for decades to come.”
—Pornokitsch

“The choice of a transgender as the main protagonist could have gone awry, but I think Newton has written her character, her difficulties, and her interactions with others (colleagues, strangers, enemies) very well indeed, and with a delicacy that was both welcome and surprising. Often, when one finds characters such as this, a preachy or strident tone can come across (at other, saddening times, more negative tones are evident), but not once did it feel like the author was trying to push an agenda. It’s very much a case of the main character happens to be transgender, and Mark does a great job of highlighting a lot of the problems that face transgenders in the world today, only transferred on a more repressive and less enlightened fantasy setting.”
—Civilian Reader

Nights of Villjamur

“…a dark epic which shows its debt to Gormenghast: death stalks the shadows and scheming, idiosyncratic characters have their own agendas. This is fantasy with vast scope and ambition… a complex, eldritch vision.”
The Guardian

Genre labels just don’t apply here. With Nights of Villjamur Mark has managed to incorporate so many wonderfully varied ideas and themes into a decent blend of excitement and interest that the marketing department is going to have to invent a whole new section just for him.

— Peter F. Hamilton

“Newton handles his multilayered world and diverse cast of characters with the assurance of an experienced author and balances his fantasy tropes with elements of horror and political commentary in vividly descriptive, compelling prose.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Newton’s compelling and visionary debut approaches epic fantasy with a fresh eye. Highly recommended. ”
Library Journal (Starred Review)

This is a promising start to a series worth pursuing.

Lisa Tuttle, The Times

“…a great book, which takes old tropes and re-imagines them into something new and memorable. It is an assured tale written with style, intelligence and skill, written inside a fantastically set premise and brilliantly focused novel that shows all the strengths of the genre and relatively few of the weaknesses… In summary, though, very highly recommended. Definitely my favourite fantasy of the year so far, in what is a very good year for the genre. This will be a ‘best of the year’ novel, unless I’m much mistaken.”
—SFF World

“I’m going to get positively gushy about Nights of Villjamur. So consider yourself warned; employ slickers if you have to, drool may fly. Bold and outrageous claims will be made; none of them substantiated. None of them supported. Because the Nights of Villjamur is self-evident in its awesomeness. If my newly formed man-crush on author Mark Charan Newton frightens you, hit that back button thingy up top… Newton’s language is beautiful and refreshing; his word choice at times is strikingly unique, experimental and genre-pushing. It’s reminiscent of R. Scott Bakker erudite and poetical prose. Which is even more unbelievable considering Newton’s in his twenties. There’s a level of thought and stylistic refinement in the novel that one should only realistically expect from a much more mature author, one that’s semi-retired, is married to one of the Golden Girls, and likes to pot azaleas in his free time. Now here is where I’m going to go off the tracks, and write something really crazy. Something like: On promise alone, Mark Charan Newton may be the best of the new generation of fantasists. Better than Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter Brett. Time will only tell. Maybe we’ll even know by the time this ice age is over.”
—Blood of the Muse

“…a work that immerses you in its world and demands you pay attention… this is a polished and accomplished debut novel and is well-recommended.”
—The Wertzone

“The author’s style pushes this tale closer to literary work than most fantasy fare and in particular there’s a pleasing depth to the characters… there’s not a cliché among them; he paints his cast to harbour some wonderful contradictions hidden beneath their official faces… Overall, this is an impressive novel from a new fantasy author.”
DeathRay Magazine

…this is a remarkable debut, a lush, fully-realised world defined by a writer with a mesmerising style that evokes some of the greats of fantasy fiction without in any way being derivative. I look forward to following what will undoubtedly be a great career.

—Mark Chadbourn

“Villjamur is haunting and brutal, beautiful and edgy, alive yet drowning in its own sin… a tightly plotted novel that worked just as well as a fantasy novel as it did a piece of introspective literature… Newton seems smartly poised to tackle a wide swathe of readers with Nights of Villjamur, and his future as a writer is bright, indeed.”
—A Dribble Of Ink

“Newton writes prose that’s both direct and detailed, moving the action but embedding it in a heavy, grungy atmosphere. He does a great job of integrating the supernatural, the science fictional and the surreal into his fantasy.”
—The Agony Column

“…a smart and accomplished debut, stylishly wrought, melding a noir detective story with strange creatures like Garudas and Jurro the Dawnir and all-the-while dealing with adult themes and mirroring real-world issues in a way that the fantasy genre doesn’t do often and doesn’t often do well. All-in-all, refreshingly deft storytelling from an author who clearly knows how to write and I look forward to the next in the series.”
—Sci-Fi London

“Hugely intelligent, hypnotic new fantasy… Nights of Villjamur is an extremely ambitious novel; asking for some serious cranial activity in order for a reader to get into its rhythm. The plotlines are extravagant and elaborately fashioned, with each individual strand eventually falling into its rightful place in the bigger picture and plenty of action, blood, gore and sex to satisfy the most ravenous of readers… an intelligent novel, with subtleties and nuances, darkness and starkness, depth and superficialities and mildly hypnotic; it will slowly wrap itself around you like the coils of a python – squeezing everything else out until only the story exists.”
—The Truth About Books

“Written in an offbeat, literary and often uncomfortable style, Newton’s technique serves to compliment the uneasy atmosphere that surrounds the story itself. The world he creates is almost palpable in its reality, demonstrating the author’s skill at generating atmosphere and bringing his setting to life.”
—Total Sci-Fi Online

“The whole book accomplishes the task of setting up the series in a promising and rewarding way. The characters are genuine, the action is well paced and bloody and the bad guys are humanly evil. Do you like you fantasy twisted, epic and bloody? You’ll love this. If you’re not into the above then I think you’ll still love it.”
—SF Crowsnest

“At its best, though, this novel is doing something really quite interesting, stylistically speaking. Where Fat-Fantasy convention requires clear, kinetic bright-colour satisfactions, he is aiming for something more alienated, snowed-in and bare… Newton looks like a writer on his way somewhere very interesting.”
—Adam Roberts

“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.”
—Between Two Books

General quotes

“A promising new writer whose prose is dynamic and whose imagination is often startling.”
— Jeff VanderMeer

“Newton is poised to be a power in the new fantasy.”
— Lou Anders