Drakenfeld, by Mark Charan Newton [Drakenfeld #1]

Title: Drakenfeld (Lucan Drakenfeld #1)
Author: Mark Charan Newton
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: 1oth October 2013 (UK)
Rating: ★★★★★

Drakenfeld-Cover-Art-540x830Drakenfeld is a complete change-of-pace from what Mark Charan Newton exhibited with his Legends of the Red Sun series, which veered towards the New Weird and definitely played with darker plotlines. Instead, this classically-influenced fantasy is a crime hybrid that is set to be as much of a stellar success as the rest of Newton’s work. In fact, I’ve been hoping for something like this for a while and when I received this ARC before the summer I dived straight in.

I was hesitant at the setting in the first instance—I’m not a massive fan of the classical world and definitely not a fan of Rome and Greece and all that sort of stuff. But I was anticipating this because it’s a Newton and because, crime hybrid. That’s pretty much all I needed to hear.

I’m glad I forwent my ho-hum attitude towards the setting, because Drakenfeld is a complete success of a novel. I wish there were more hybrids, especially ones that merge the crime genre into fantasy and science fiction.

Essentially, Drakenfeld is a whodunit. My favourite kind.

Lucan Drakenfeld is the son of a renowned Officer of the Sun Chamber and his whole life he has lived in his father’s shadow. To this end, he has been working far from the city of his birth, avoiding elements of his past—and his father’s glowing reputation.

But upon receipt of news of his father’s death, Lucan is recalled to the ancient city of his birth, Tryum. Along with him goes his assistant, Leana. They travel to the city and soon find themselves completely entangled in what will prove to be his most difficult and complicated case to date. Along the way, as might be expected with Lucan returning to his home, he will have to confront elements of his past that he would rather forget. More than that, his father’s death is suspicious to Lucan, despite the Sun Chamber’s belief that it was a natural death.

With both the death of the King’s sister and the mystery of his father’s death hanging over the investigation, Lucan and Leana must delve into the heart of the city’s politics  to uncover the truth—which is far stranger and more complex than  either of them could have accounted for.

Everything in this fantasy crime hybrid is woven together perfectly and Newton demonstrates an aptitude for not only the complex fantasy of the Legends of the Red Sun series, but for the subtle twists and turns of a Romanesque mystery, too.

Following the slightly darker turns of his previous series, the final book of which I was incredibly disappointed by, I was expecting to love Drakenfeld off the bat after reading Newton’s blog on the subject, promising a completely different sort of protagonist and ideal.

Precisely this is delivered, in spades. Drakenfeld is a book that I devoured in a couple of days due to its addictive pace and moreish, compelling plot. As a protagonist, Lucan Drakenfeld is completely honourable and likeable and this manner of lead character is something of a fresh perspective amidst the darker natured, more anti-hero archetypes flooding the fantasy forum at the moment.

One of the best things to hope for from a series like this is the subsequent books come to and their potentially episodic nature. Like all good crime stories, which admittedly I only have experience of from TV, there promises to be a different plot thread in each accompanying novel, and throughout I expect to learn more of Lucan himself as the series develops.

I’d been hoping for a return to the level of enjoyment received from Newton’s earlier books and I wasn’t at all disappointed. It felt that whatever I perceived was missing from the writing of The Broken Isles was back in full force. The writing felt like “Newton” again. As a loyal and steadfast fan, this was immeasurably relieving. With this novel, I have a well-missed, well-loved author back at the top of my pile.

It is always satisfying to anticipate plot twists coming; it gives a certain sense of smugness, as if high-fiving or knuckle-bumping the author. It’s like being in on some kind of private joke. And it is definitely something that adds a layer of further enjoyment to a novel such as this. Maybe it’s just me; maybe other people like the “wow” or “holy crap!” factors when a plot twist comes to light. Either way, Drakenfeld was a complete success for me. (I do think a parental obsession with Saturday night instalments of Jonathan Creek taught a certain way of thinking in regards to the Locked Room puzzle, however, despite being a wee bairn at the time, likely sprawled on the floor with colouring books and staying up way past bedtime.)

I expect that Newton’s new series will be an immediate success, thanks partly to its depth of worldbuilding, managing to create a secondary classical world that is familiar enough to be so, yet still completely his own. Lucan Drakenfeld is a complex character with a good core—and this is just the kind of character I feel has been largely missing from certain veins of fantasy. There’s been too much darkness. It was about time that something lighter, yet still no more stereotyped or clichéd, should break through that darker branch of the genre.

Overall I loved Drakenfeld every bit as much as I expected to. It left me with a deep longing for more fantasy/genre hybrids. Romance has always been something of a part of SFF, way back through the decades, and so to find it in fantasy isn’t classed as anything unusual. But horror and crime and mystery as their own separate elements have not yet breached the hold. Drakenfeld is the first step, with the novel generally being accepted as having “crime” elements, so much so that Newton himself is a member of a crime writers association.

A deep and clever story focused around a man and his duties, with revelations along the way that make for an enjoyable start to a promising new series.


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