news & reviews

16Jun

Alex Reviews “Nights of Villjamur”

I’m pretty chuffed with Alex Carnegie’s review of Nights of Villjamur, since he really connected with the things I had in mind when writing the book.

After the New Weird, traditional Fantasy just doesn’t really do it for me anymore – or rather I don’t see it as a continuing, living genre in which I should invest my attention. “Show me something a bit different!” I cry. “Well, you know what I mean…” They shrug, as if to say “feudal intrigue and swordfights: what more could you want?” I reread ‘Perdido Street Station’ for the trillionth time instead.

This brings me to ‘Nights of Villjamur’. I heard about Mark Charan Newton early this year and the Internet hype for his second novel (although the first from a major publisher) has been absolutely deafening…

Hype, hype, don’t let me down again…

When I finally read the novel I wasn’t disappointed. One major factor in my enjoyment was the subgenre/tradition in which it is placed: the Dying Earth. There’s something very cool about Newton’s resurrection of this form of fiction, one that originates from the pulp Weird days where Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror were still all the contents of a great glorious melting pot rather than being neatly divided and subdivided into marketing categories… I have a suspicion, the same one that arose when reading ‘Thunderer’ and ‘Gears of the City’ by Felix Gilman, that the author’s trying to smuggle in some of that inter-genre, New Weird, a bit different goodness on the sly.

Shush. Don’t mention the New Weird! Although I’m guilty as charged.

This sense of Villjamur as a working city full of individuals and their lives as opposed to a broadly sketched stage for big events comes across in Newton’s handling of its numerous non-human inhabitants. He takes their unique characteristics, with their advantages and drawbacks, and shows (with evident thought) exactly how they fit into society, for instance showing us why the rumel might be particularly suited to police work, why garuda are found in particular sections of the armed forces, or how a banshee might assist in a murder enquiry. They aren’t just quasi-human monster-folk there for the sake of it. It is a coherent and expansively imagined world.

Alex goes on to mention the references he spotted to Gene Wolfe’s “Book of the New Sun” series, which I was very chuffed to see – they’ll only be apparent if you’ve read those books (recommend that you do actually, since they’re terrific pieces of literature).

I would even venture to describe this as an updated Dying Earth, one for a new century in the wake of the New Weird event.

Read the rest of the review. It’s one of those instances where I’m jumping around the room saying “He gets it, he gets it!”

11Jun

Two Reviews of “Nights of Villjamur”

Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews has a very thorough review of Nights of Villjamur:

I was caught in the spell of “Nights of Villjamur” but the end of the novel didn’t bring my release and I was left wondering about the outcome of its story. Mark Charan Newton shows in his novel a great potential, for him as a writer and for his fantasy series, “Legends of the Red Sun”, and I believe that he can sit without question in the hall of the new names of epic fantasy writers and bring his contribution to a great new generation of such authors.

I do so hate not bringing about his release – I never like to leave people in such a state, I feel like such a floozy.

Meanwhile, Liz at My Favourite Books also reviews Nights of Villjamur.

Nights is an epic fantasy chock full of fresh, off the wall ideas, yet Mark manages to keep the heady cocktail of cultists, flying soldiers, zombies, diabolical politicians, albinos and genocide under tight control, nimbly weaving the various storylines together into a satisfying whole.

Read the rest. Thanks, Liz!

10Jun

Mark Chadbourn Goes To Villjamur

Author Mark Chadbourn dropped a line to my editor after he finished reading Nights of Villjamur.

I wanted to let you know that this 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.

Which is wonderful indeed – thanks, Mark!

Supporting transparency, I’ll state here that I have met Mark a few times – but he has integrity, and I trust that he wouldn’t endorse anything he didn’t want his name attached to. That aside, coming from an author I respect greatly, the blurb is an honour.

7Jun

Reviews Tab & What Works?

The really bored will notice a new tab on my main website, for reviews of Nights of Villjamur, so I could keep things tidy and in one place. You can also click the review tag to search for blog entries on reviews of the book from around the wonderful science fiction and fantasy community.

I wondered though – since I’m stepping into very whorish territory – what kind of things do people want from an author website? I mean, from the whole ‘Who is this idiot then?’ kind of angle to getting to people to part with cash. I appreciate it needs to subtly act as a business site too. But what works? What do people really need and want when it comes to author websites?

Feel free to bung any suggestions into the comments.

6Jun

The Guardian Reviews “Nights of Villjamur”

Nights of Villjamur was reviewed in today’s Guardian, and this is the full review:

Villjamur is under siege from the encroaching ice age. Refugees threaten to overwhelm the city and stability is undermined from within by scheming chancellors. After the suicide of the emperor, Captain Brynd Lathraea is charged with bringing back the emperor’s daughter from self-imposed exile, to be installed as a puppet empress. Meanwhile Randur Estevu, a country lad with vaunting ambitions, comes to Villjamur seeking immortality. The first instalment in The Legends of the Red Sun series is 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, and while the prose would have benefited from judicious compression and excision, the novel is a complex, eldritch vision with great potential.

5Jun

Some More Reviews & Fickle, Fickle Buzz

First up is Falcata Times, who say:

If you love fantasy that not only makes you think but presents a tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned then you really won’t do better than Mark’s Nights of Villjamur. Its got Erikson’s attention to world building, Martin’s politicking and finished off with Gemmell’s combat. Ideal fantasy fodder and from a guy who works in the industry is the type of novel that will perhaps take the genre into a new direction in much the same way that Rothfuss and Lynch have done in more recent years. Cracking fantasy and an excellent start to Mark’s series that left me begging for more, I really can’t wait for his next offering.

And then, a spoilerific write-up which is – shock horror! – not quite full of praise, damn him, over at Neth Space:

The blogs and other review sites are ablaze with seemingly overwhelmingly positive reaction. This is both deserved and troubling with Nights of Villjamur being a strong debut in the world of epic fantasy, but ultimately not the outstanding work the blogger buzz proclaims.

How very dare he not join my ranks. Surely everyone should like the book, no? What does he mean it isn’t outstanding?

Nights of Villjamur is cerebral fantasy.

I like this. I might just leave it there.

But…

The writing, while intelligent, suffers at times from the inability to live up to its aspirations and remain consistent.

Oh “Internet Buzz”, you fickle, fickle mistress. You promised me the world at the start. You whispered sweet things, you tell me I’m the next big thing. We could have been something good, really good, I know it. There were happy times, right? Surely we can give things another go, in a year or so when the next book is out? Now everyone is going to be so disappointed with me and you just leave me out here, cold and alone.

3Jun

Dave Visits Villjamur

Dave Brendon goes to Villjamur.

Some snippets:

Mark’s words are incredible and creating vistas and characters in your mind. You see the scenery, almost as an afterimage, while reading, see the colours, feel the sea spray dusting your face. It’s like as soon as you sit down and start reading a trapdoor opens beneath you and you tumble into the world…

Now, on to the characters and characterization. With one chracter in particular, Mark goes into (as far as I know) unread territory – this character is one of the important POVs in the story, and I was a bit shocked that Mark had taken this particular journey with this character… We are taken into taboo (and I say ‘taboo’ because many still see it as such) territory, a huge chance on Mark’s part, and it works, not only for the character and the story, but for all the genres making up SFF; Mark has loudly and clearly said, “You see? Stop being so afraid. We write about life and this has to stop being ignored and belittled and glossed over. Use it!” His feelings on the matter are probably different, but it’s what I would say to Mark, and I’m pretty sure he would agree.

Read the rest.