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Friday, December 20, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton and White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read the first chapter of Drakenfeld HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Nights of Villjamur 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of City of Ruin 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of The Book Of Transformations 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Mark Newton 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Over here at Fantasy Book Critic, we keep an eye out for special writers and I was looking forward to this book since it was announced back in 2011. While I’ve read the first two books in Mark C. Newton’s debut series, this book almost felt like from a whole new person. Let me clarify that; as I don't think that Mark was a bad writer with his earlier books, no he was a different kind of writer. With this one, he re-invents himself and goes on to write a book that is vastly different than his debut effort in terms of plot style, genre & characterization.

Drakenfeld introduces us to Lucan Drakenfeld, an officer of the Sun Chamber who is called back to his birth city of Tryum. Tryum is the capital city of Detrata, which along with a few other nations combine to form the Vispasian Royal Union. A confederation of monarchic nations, which is controlled and policed by the Sun Chamber. Set in a quasi-Roman landscape and with a world that is very slowly & surely revealed, the author focuses on the main character of Lucan Drakenfeld as we learn all about his past life and his route to becoming an officer of the Sun chamber. Lucan’s father has passed away and when he learns about it, he goes back to Tryum wherein he learns that the King’s sister has been murdered in a locked room.

Tasked by the king to find his sister’s murderer, Lucan Drakenfeld soon learns that the past never truly is in the past. As revelations about his father and his ex-lover shake Lucan and he is embroiled in the royal murder mystery with no end in sight. The author then conveniently proceeds to involve the reader in this quasi-roman world via his smooth operative protagonist. Lucan Drakenfeld is a superb protagonist who is a cerebral character and one who looks to avoid violence whenever he can. The author has commented about this in a blog post and after reading this story, it’s very apparent how the author has gone about this. I enjoyed discovering Lucan’s past and how some of it ties into the current mystery. With first person narratives, it's entirely upon the narrator to enrapture the reader and so here the author excels by creating such a everyman protagonist. Lucan is a simple, honorable man who has made mistake but has learned from them as much as possible.

There’s also the world that is introduced and with this opening story, we are only shown the city of Tryum. I hope the author explores remaining city states in further volumes as this series is ripe for exploration. The side character cast introduced in this one is also intriguing beginning from Leana who provides an interesting foil to Lucan and provides the reader with some of the interesting dialogue in this book. Also primarily what it does is hold a mirror to Lucan, his views and actions. In the sense that Lucan is a man who advocates avoiding violence but Leana often counters by providing reasons that violence might actually be the better option. I enjoyed this intellectual foreplay and will be interested to see Leana’s past explored in the future volumes.

The author has to be lauded for lacing such a good mystery story within a secondary fantasy world. The world he has created is a very low magic one and there's almost none within this story. Perhaps this is a world with its superstitions that is slowly but surely on its way to dispelling them. Or it's a series that might present some later, either way it's a series that will draw in the readers comfortably. Not much to nitpick about it, besides the fact that there's almost next to none of any magic, but the way the story is presented, most readers shouldn't have any quibbles about it.

With strong characterization and a very smooth plot, the book was an excellent read from the first page to the last. I very much enjoyed this new turn by Mark C. Newton and will be looking forward to further adventures featuring Leana and Lucan. Very highly recommended for those who love strong mysteries, nuanced plots and an intriguing protagonist. Join Lucan Drakenfeld in his ancient world, for the author is sure to dwell in it for a long, long time to come.

Official Authors Website 
Order White Fire HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Fever Dream 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Cemetry Dance 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Gideon’s Sword 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Cold Vengeance 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Extraction 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: After the traumatic events showcased in Two Graves, readers were presented with a broken Pendergast (mentally, and a bit world-weary). So readers were interested to see what would happen to him post the revelations of the climax of the Helen Pendergast trilogy. What I liked was how the authors decided to side-step reader expectations.

This book is a standalone story and focuses on Corrie Swanson as she is looking for a historical project in regards to her thesis work. Once she finds out about a grizzly bear massacre in Colorado, she is hooked on to the case as it gives her a unique take on forensic odontology. Upon reaching the town, Corrie finds that things are never that forthcoming and she takes some unnecessary measures to reach her goal (proving her immaturity to readers). She lands in big trouble and it’s left to Pendergast to help her as is his wont.

Pendergast however takes a secondary role in the happenings of the book and this aspect of the book was very similar to his earliest appearances in Relic & Reliquary. I loved that the authors took this step as it made him into the mysterious enigma we know him to be. This story is entirely Corrie's story and it makes for a fascinating change to read.  The icing of this story is its connection to Arthur Conan Doyle and his erstwhile creation: Sherlock Holmes, both of which form a vital cog of the plot. So not only do the readers get to read about Pendergast, they also get a brand new Sherlock Holmes story that is officially sanctioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate. This is an absolute first among recent thriller writers and kudos to Messrs. Preston & Child for this fantastic addition to the story.

As with previous Preston-Child books, characterization remains a strong point and it’s no different here. While I'm not a big fan of Corrie as a protagonist, she was much less abrasive or antagonistic (in her people skills) this time around and this perhaps heralds a mature turn to her (which is good). In this regard Corrie is presented as she is known to readers of the previous books but with more maturity and therefore this book is perhaps the best of her appearances. There's a small but crucial bit of news in regards to D'Agosta & another favorite character of mine, which was pretty cool to know. Lastly this book also introduces another intriguing and formidable side character, who is a former military captain and I hope the authors give her a bigger role in their future books. The pace of the story along with the plot twists are the strong points and while some twists are easily predictable, the uncertain nature of the storyline and its horrific climax help in making this story to further consolidate the plus-points.

White Fire is a good follow-up thriller to the utterly fascinating Helen Pendergast trilogy. It is very much similar in scope to Still Life With Crows (which was also Corrie's debut) but presents a much different landscape. The story also has the addition of the new Sherlock Holmes story and that was something that one almost never reads about. White Fire can also be read as a standalone story and for new readers, it would be a good place to be introduced to the world of A.X.L. Pendergast and many more intriguing characters that dwell in the imaginations of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.


Bob R Milne said...

it made him into the mysterious enigma we know him to be

That was definitely one of the most welcome changes with this book, and the addition of the Sherlock Holmes element worked far better than I could have hoped.

The Reader said...


Yeah I really enjoyed that move. Over the last decade or so, they have revealed a lot about him and so with this book. The move hearkened back to the earlier tales wherein he was a mystery.

The Sherlock Holmes story was simply fun to read and I liked how they tied it all together.


Blodeuedd said...

The library will be getting Drakenfelt so excited about that now :)

The Reader said...


Glad to hear it, will look forward to hearing how you find it :)


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