Drakenfield is called home by the death of his father, who was a wealthy and powerful Officer of the Sun Chamber, a force of law-keepers, whose powers keep the many nations of Vispassia together in alliance and peace. For many years, Drakenfield junior has become a rising star, working in the same organisation.
Soon after returning home to Detrata, Drakenfield discovers that his father’s life and death may have had dangerous secrets. This could be linked to a high profile murder, which Drakenfield is asked to investigate by King Licinitus of Detrata himself. The ripples from this murder are spreading through all levels of society and are increasingly putting pressure on the King himself. A swiftly solved crime and captured criminal are essential. Backing up Drakenfield is the wealth and military power of the Sun Chamber, opposing him are the half-familiar machinations of his home city and its inhabitants.
‘Drakenfield’ the novel is an interesting one to categorise. On the surface, it is clearly a fine and detailed fantasy story with rich characters and nicely drawn societies. It is equally a well-researched historical novel. While reading it, I visualised Pompeii, in fact I imagined the archaeological Roman world throughout. The advantage of using this historical setting is that we can all visualise a Roman senator, soldier or shop-keeper, descriptions are not needed.
Overlaying this is a classic locked-room mystery. This crime story staple is at least 150 years old, again adding to the historical feeling. These elements are handled well and the story builds to a satisfying conclusion.
It is always good to read a story which tries to break from the tired old fantasy stereotypes. There are no orphan children being found by enigmatic mages, No mismatched group of travellers on a difficult quest, but most importantly the story’s ending shouldn’t be telegraphed from early on.
Unusually for a fantasy novel, magic makes only a small and ambiguous cameo. There is a hint of paranormal activity which possibly sets up further plots for potential sequels. One note of criticism is that there are a few plot points which are left hanging. It is unclear if these are undeveloped ideas or attempted misdirection.
Mark Charan Newton’s writing style is clear and pacey, happily he avoids the use of faux retro speech, so beloved of many fantasy writers. This clarity of style makes the dialogue accessible and comprehensible.
This book will suit fantasy fans and historical fiction readers. It is also worth a read if you are looking to broaden your scope into unfamiliar genres.
Newton has excellent SF writing credentials, to which he can add fantasy, historical and crime writing skills, an impressive skill-set indeed.
(pub: TOR-UK. 429 page hardback. Price: £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-230-76682-2)