City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton

City of ruin

“But could you call it a victory if around a hundred thousand people had died? Was it really called winning when your own army was nearly destroyed?”

There comes a time when the second book in a series in infinitely better than the first. While it had its flaws, Mark Charan Newton’s City of Ruin improves tremendously on his very atmospheric first, Nights of Villjamur.

In CoR, one similarity you see right off the bat is Newton’s love of multiple POVs. I don’t understand what Fantasy’s love triangle with multiple POVs and one single, tight one is. NoV did the same, but with less effect. The threads were jumbled, incoherent, and too many. You were left a rushed, unsatisfying ending. In CoR, the opposite was true, to some extent. Newton tweaked the POV interface just enough to become tighter, more intimate with the characters and their plight. He didn’t throw in a random POV in the middle of the story to suit some plot point. Instead, the characters actions were the plot points.

Speaking of characters, this is truly an epic story, a mystery that can get by with introducing the killer early on. See, this is a murder mystery, a war story, a tale of redemption, and love. But most importantly, this is a really weird story.

Out of POVs, you have very, very many to choose from. Starting off, there’s the spider’s picture, the killer of Newton’s tale. Tracking down the mutant spider is Investigator Rumex Jeryd who is a snarky “PI” and is conviently afraid of spiders. (And is also one of my favorite cynical characters!) He is aided by Nanzi, the new assistant, and is given the “quest” by Brynd, the albino, very secretive military commander of the city. His affairs, both public and private, are questioned by his second-in-command, Nelum. And then we have Beami who’s actually having an *sigh* affair with a soldier, Lupus. Never once does one of them get killed by the other. Her husband is the macho-to-the-extreme Malum, the head of the Bloods, a pun-y vampire gang.

Those are just the few POVs I can name as important. Don’t be afraid though; it’s much smaller than NoV’s.

With these many POVs, you get tremendous amounts of tension, a great thing. Never once does it drag. While Newton does tend to tell, not show, this works. While his style may not be to my liking, the usage of colons works. Both of these attributes to the writer are different and sometimes frowned upon, but Newton has a certain way he pushes these traits that, to drill into your head a sad cliche, works.

What does not work is Chapter 35, a dues ex machine that happens right before my most unexpected plot twist of the book. I won’t go into details, but that chapter and the events that took place are the reason it took me so long to finish this book. I skipped to others. Luckily, Newton is a great writer, drawing me back into his world. That, and you can only be saved by an unknown goddess once before it gets ridiculous.

And what a world it is, so atmospheric, bleak, cold, depressing, hopeless. Those are in no way reasons for you to read this and go question your life. They are good things, refreshing things that I enjoy in his tone, especially after coming off a YA book.

“In the contended zones, corpses lay in the snow, in decrepit armor, amid isolated limbs, bloodstains, and rotting flesh, and the streets reeked with the taint of death. Where windows once glimmered, black holes seemed like gateways into hell. Red mist was sprayed across the banks of snow, where people had been slaughtered. Without the street cleaners’ regular attention, there was little to stop the weather from reclaiming the city, and it almost seemed the kindest thing to do would be to bury Villiren, to let it suffocate under the elements.”

What problem I really had with this story is the ending. One plot thread in particular, Randur’s, felt underdeveloped. Barely anything happened. CoR focused more on Jeryd and Brynd, which is a good thing, than the more epic saga of Randur and Co. Plus, the ending, the battle which takes almost half the book to tell, felt underdone. Seriously. I wanted more, say an explosion seen on camera or some closer expression of what happened. I wanted a better resolution, not some open ending, which is one reason I will have to continue with this series. It’s great, but Newton doesn’t wrap up everything in a tight bow.

As I said, refreshing and different; weird for this writer’s identical niche. Just don’t mess with his usage of Chekhov’s Gun and strange cultist/relic situations.

Rating: 8/10

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