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Fantasy Friday- Nights of Villjamur

Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton‏
Review written by Bowden P. (Trey)

After reading Eyes of the Overworld, I discover there is a sub-genre of fantasy called Dying Earth. And though I never new it existed, I’m a fan.

The novel Nights of Villjamur opens with a punitive seige on Folke Isaland against rebels. There we meet Brynd Lathrea, Kapp Brimir and Papus as the seige takes place. The seeds for about half the story are sown here as the connections between the characters are estblished.

The action then leaps ten years forward to the imperial capital of Villjamur. There thousands of refugees seek entrance to outlast the coming ice age, plus there are the intrigues of the technological cults, the wealthy and the aristocrats. All in all, its a millennia old snake pit known for its spires, bridges, wealth, antiques and age.

The world Newton sketches out in Nights of Villjamur is an interesting one. Its old. As in millions of years old. It sort of reminds of Against a Dark Background and McCauley’s Confluence trilogy in that regard. The world is different – there are the intelligent flying garudas that serve the Empire, blood beetles that feast upon spilt blood, banshees – the witch women of Villjamur that announce the deaths of all and technolgies and sciences so old that they have been forgotten by most, only rediscovered and horded by cultists. These ancient artifacts – relics – and knowledge of them are the magic of the setting. And oh yes, there are other hominid races too. The only two mentioned are the Dawnir – a giant race responsible for much of the impressive technological artifacts and the Rumel, a tailed, leathery skinned and long lived race.

The plot summaries I’ve seen at Amazon and on PBS don’t do the plots justice because there are many, varied and interlinked. I don’t think setting up the dominoes will spoil things too much. Randur Estevu – formerly Kapp Brimir – has made his way to Villjamur to find a way to keep his mother alive. Which leads him back to Papus, head of the Order of Dawnir and from her to her rival, Dartun Súr. Dartun Súr seeks immortality no matter the price as his age retarding treatments begin to fail. But before all this happens a member of the Council is killed mere steps from Randur which leads to the involvement of Investigator Rumex Jeryd and Investigator Aide Tryst. While all this is happening Commander Brynd Lathrea of the Night Guard, the Empire’s elite forces, is fighting off an intense and well prepared ambush.

From there the plot picks up speed and so do the quirks and descriptions of the city and its character. Before long we meet the mad and brilliant Emperor Jamur Johynn (who I’d describe as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”), the ambitious Chancellor Urtica, the prostitute Tuya and the Emperor’s daughters Eir and Rika.

I liked this book. I really did. It has some good characters and characterization, and even though they work at cross purposes, they can be understandable. Not always sympathetic, but understandable. Newton also presents an intriguing older Earth that makes me think of Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique and Jack Vance’s Dying Earth.

I’m looking forward to tracking down the sequel City of Ruin and reading it as well. The blurbs promise more action in the north, plus more darkness and weirdness.

Likes: Neat characters; Their interactions; Their motivations; The world building; Avoiding info dumps.

Dislikes: The sudden ending of the book. Its the logical spot, but I want more.

Suggested for: Fans of Jack Vance, Clark Ashton Smith, William Hope Hodgson, Gene Wolfe and fans of the Dying Earth sub-genre of fantasy. I’d also suggest it to fans of PC Hodgell and Greg Keyes Riverborn series.

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