Mark Charan Newton, author of the Legends of the Red Sun fantasy quartet, continues a new series in Retribution, in which he skillfully melds ancient-world fantasy and highly realistic detective fiction.
Newton follows up the first novel in this series, Drakenfeld, by sending the Sun Chamber officer Lucan Drakenfeld and his warrior sidekick, Leana, to Koton, east of Detrata, his homeland. Summoned by Queen Dokoz to find a missing priest, the case soon becomes a murder investigation, with no apparent motive or clues as to the identity of the killer – or killers. Queen Dokoz also asks for Drakenfeld and Leana’s help in protecting her daughter and heir, Nambu, from unspecified threats to her safety. Nambu, in a well-written subplot, learns the skills of a warrior from Leana, and matures into her future role as queen with grace, wit and fierce energy. Sulma Tan, the queen’s chief administrator, is another strong female character, providing valuable research assistance to the Sun Chamber team.
Koton and its capital city, Kuvash, play a large role in this story. Newton spotlights a tribal culture trying to become settled, with new cities, new roles for women in its society – and even new gods. Even the design of the city map of Kuvash in this book enhances the sense of mystery. Unlike the sharply drawn city map of Tryum, in Drakenfeld, Kuvash is rendered almost as an art painting, showing only essential information, and concealing all other details with trees, shrubbery and waves in the harbor, much as they are hidden in the tale itself.
Retribution’s pacing slows in the second half of the book. As the bodies start to pile up, the investigation is thwarted by uncommunicative citizens at all levels of society. Ferreting out the few clues that Newton includes about the motive, method and opportunity behind the murders presents a fascinating challenge to the reader. The pace picks up crisply in the last few chapters to a satisfying and unexpected resolution.
An excerpt (first chapter) of Retribution here on the author’s website.