Mark Charan Newton is British writer who edited a science fiction magazine before turning to novels. Nights of Villjamur is his second novel and the first in the Legends of the Red Sun series. The book draws heavily from elements and themes in existing fantasy books, particularly China Mieville and maybe Stephen Hunt. At the centre of this epic is the city of Villjamur, ethereally Gothic with its bridges and arches, built into a large rock whose summit is the realm of its rulers and its underside home to the city's disenfranchised. Villjamur is the capital of an empire that rules the Boreal Archipelago. Significant changes are coming to this world. The days are growing colder, heralding an imminent ice age. Mysterious tribesmen launch attacks on the empire's home island. From the far north come tales of massacres and other-worldly interlopers. On this stage, Newton follows a number of eclectic characters. His protagonists come in all sorts of colours, genders and sexualities, perhaps a happy side-effect of Newton's own multicultural origins (his mother is Indian, thus explaining his middle name). The most interesting character is Brynd, a gay albino military commander whose competency on the battlefield wouldn't save him from the gallows if his sexual preferences were disclosed. And being a true albino with red-tinted eyes implies that he is different both on the inside and out. There is a prostitute-painter named Tuya and Jeryd, an investigator who belongs to the rumel, a hominid species with think skin and tails; both are well-fleshed out. The other characters aren't developed so well; Eyr, a princess and Randur, a professional philanderer are quite superficial and come across as very silly, which I don't think was intended.
Villjamur is well drawn creating a dark, moody neo-medieval metropolis. However, the plot is not just about the city. There are those who wield paranormal powers - the cultists - subscribing to a range of rival sects and using bizarre technology to bend nature. One of these cultists is about to set a dangerous plan in motion. Newton doesn't spend too much time on these curious cults or their technology. Maybe, he intends to do that in his next book. There is a bit of a struggle within the plot between urban fantasy and epic fantasy. I think he manages that okay although his bias is clearly towards the former. However, I felt that he could have made the story progress a wee bit faster. It has interesting elements but it's not gripping. One way is to perhaps to cut down on the rumination (his characters love to brood). Another way could be to make outcomes less predictable and not fear killing off characters.
These trilogies are so bloody addictive; they're going to be the death of me.