Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton

Pushing the boundaries of what fantasy can be in exciting ways.
Drakenfeld book cover

Book of the Year 2013 (see all)

Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton is the first book in a new series that mashes up the genres of murder mystery, thriller, and pre-industrial second world fantasy, whilst adding some pulpy / noir stylings for good measure. I'm not a big reader of the mystery genre, so I didn't know what to expect going in, but I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised and I would love to see more fantasy authors attempt this style of genre mash-up.

The land of Vispasia is comprised of many countries / monarchies; all bound together by the Royal Vispasian Union, with the Sun Chamber acting to ensure the union remains stable. The story follows Lucan Drakenfeld, an Officer of the Sun Chamber, who is forced to return to his home, Tryum, after the sudden death of his father. Drakenfeld's stay in Tryum is then extended after the King's sister is found murdered, in a room locked from the inside, with no witnesses and no leads. Drakenfeld begins his investigation, but the closer he gets, the greater the threat to his own life.

Lucan Drakenfeld is a very interesting character, unlike many other characters I have seen in other fantasy stories. He is neither hero nor anti-hero, just a complex man who is bound by duty and has a thirst for finding the truth. He is a very introspective man, very hard on himself, and it seems like he may have a mild case of clinical depression. I know that doesn't sound very appealing, but the way Newton has written this character I couldn't help but be fascinated by his psyche and his decision making process. I liked him because I never felt like he was ever being deceitful, and in the city of Tryum where being deceitful is a way of life, Drakenfeld provides an obvious but effective contrast.

The murder mystery itself was put together quite cleverly, with a great combination of straight forward deductions and wicked twists that I never saw coming. Newton strings you along by making you feel like progress is always being made, giving us a big list of suspects and slowly narrowing them down as each new piece of evidence is uncovered. By the end of the story I had figured out who the murderer was, but I think that was deliberate because the big twist is not about who committed the crime, but why they committed it in the first place. I was completely wrong footed, and loved it.

I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Drakenfeld. Mark Charan Newton is an author who is not afraid to try something new, and I believe he is pushing the boundaries of what fantasy can be in exciting ways. I don't think it strictly falls into "New Weird" territory like his Legends of the Red Sun books seemed to, but it is refreshing to read a style of fantasy that I have not read before.

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