Book Review: Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton

Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Series: Book 1 of Drakenfeld

Publisher: Tor UK

Date of Publication: October 10, 2013

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars – “Perfect blend of fantasy and
mystery with an excellent main character; its uniqueness made  this one of my best reads this year”  

If you ever get the opportunity to check out Drakenfeld, I highly recommend doing so! Go ahead and pick up the book, take your time to admire that striking, gorgeous cover, and give the first chapter a whirl. For myself, I was irrevocably hooked by the third page. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the opening scene, when the descriptions of a brutal, torturous act of punishment is at once juxtaposed by the eponymous main character’s deep regret and compassion, especially since he was the one who so doggedly hunted down the condemned in the first place.

Indeed, Lucan Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him. As an officer of the Sun Chamber, the independent organization tasked with maintaining the peace and stability of the various kingdoms in the Royal Vispasian Union, he has traveled far and wide and acted as lawkeeper in many places across the land. Yet when news of his father’s death reaches him at the start of this story, Drakenfeld is recalled to his childhood home of Tryum.
Unfortunately, our protagonist has scarcely settled into his new post when tragedy befalls Tryum’s royal family. The king’s sister Lacanta has been found murdered, and Drakenfeld is called in to investigate the case. But with the princess’ body found inside an empty locked temple just minutes after she was last seen alive by numerous witnesses, the baffling circumstances around her death seem quite impossible. Furthermore, the rumors that she was struck down by sorcery and witchcraft certainly aren’t helping one bit.
First of all, I was absolutely delighted to find a book like this! I’ll admit, despite hearing it described as a “fantasy mystery”, I had my doubts in the beginning, namely in the “Mystery” part of that combination. After all, I’ve read a lot fantasy in the past which have been lumped into this category (specifically, a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal) but only because they happen to contain a few elements of the genre like noir or crime. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been known to enjoy those kinds of books a lot as well, but it was still very exciting, the moment when I was reading Drakenfeld and realized that I was holding an actual bonafide whodunit murder mystery in my hands.
It only gets better. The book’s fantasy setting is one rich with politics, religion and culture, with an atmosphere reminiscent of Ancient Rome. Mark Charan Newton’s writing style is wonderful, bringing the world of Drakenfeld to life in a way that gives it an almost classical, literary feel. As a lover of epic and historical fantasy, I was in my comfort zone, even as the meat of the mystery plot unfolded.
But perhaps my biggest attraction to this book is the character of Lucan Drakenfeld himself. In a genre that has seen the rise of many anti-heroes and other darker, morally-ambiguous characters in recent years, I was actually a little taken aback to encounter someone like Drakenfeld. Put simply, our narrator is a good person. Not perfect, no; but he values life and law in equal measure. His code of honor, as I said, was something I was able to determine very early on, from his attitude towards crime and punishment in the opening scene. A genuine belief in the adherence to regulations combined with a respect for personal freedoms made him an intriguing character whom I knew I was going to love. Coming down from reading a lot of epic fantasy starring thieves, mercenaries and assassins as of late also made meeting Drakenfeld a refreshing change.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Mark Charan Newton, but it certainly won’t be my last. With its perfect blend of fantasy and mystery and an excellent cast of characters, Drakenfeld gave me one of the more unique reading experiences I’ve had this year, and I think those who enjoy both those genres will really like this one. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, definitely check this one out.

5 of 5 stars
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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