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Mark Charan Newtons City of Ruin continued the story told in his first novel the nights of Villjamur. He has built a world based around city states, in which different humanoid species all live and work close together. The states we encounter are made of humans, Rumels who are hairy and have tails and a strange new mix of hybrid sentient humanoids. Though the book uses characters from the first novel, it can be read as a standalone as the events in the first novel are mentioned but don't press too hard on the events in the second.
The city of ruin
The city of ruin continues the story of Inspector Jeryd, Commander Brynd and a new character the underworld boss Malum. This is set in a different city compared with the first novel but in essence the setting remains similar, here we have a decadent corrupt city tottering on the edge of destruction. There are strange tales of hybrid humanoids and an invading army hell-bent on destroying the city, Brynd is engaged to fortify the city and Jeryd to investigate the set of stange disappearances. Both have secrets which the reader if he's read the first novel will also know but the citizens in the new city do not.
Jeryd by the way is a Rumel, Brynd an Albino human and Malum a tough hard edged human. The stories which appear so disparate at the start will of course eventually come together at the novels climax.
This novel much like the first has great aims in terms of writing a grand fantasy epic, here is a setting not too disimilar to Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast with plenty of Gothic splendour and a sprinkling of sexual frustration. The characters are all males in their middle years, free from the folly of youth and a little ground down by the realities of being responsible and in control. They are all looking for something to show their strength and vigour and of course in the course of the looking will encounter each other.
The book doesn't change much in its tone from the city on the edge of despair with an army outside, there are supernatural events within the city but they are tools to make the reader wake up rather than true story plotlines. Overall, the success of any novel is in its characters and in some hard to reason way the characters in this novel don't quite engage the reader.
Yes, the author constructs wonderful narrative on the times and troubles of the three men, there are little side stories about some of the women in the stories and there are plenty of little side issues which rise up and then are dealt with. However, at the end when the fate of the city and the three men is to be described this reader for one found it hard to really care too much about any of them. This might be a result of the way the worl is constructed, if you build a world where sex is a tool, humour and enjoyment are almost unknown and where life itself is a drudge then right at the end to sprinkle a bit of hope and spirit wouldn't feel right.
This gives the book a tortuous ending and made me think of the ending of Lord of The Rings, not in a grand sweeping finale but in the way the book seems to end several times. The book generally feels a little too long, a litte overwritten and a little too thoughtful when a bit of escapist adventure might have helped it.
Others might disagree but so far I fail to see Mark as the new light in a pretty dark hole which is the current fantasy genre, yes at least its different and not a lord of the rings parody or a dreadful book about vampires but a truly genre shaking event, no not for me.
However, compared with the books I've just mentioned its very good and whilst not really a true page turner is at least a decent story to read at night.