Book Review: Retribution

Retribution by Mark Charan Newton, Lucan Drakenfeld #2 

WHEN JUSTICE FAILS, REVENGE FOLLOWS... Having just solved a difficult case in his home city of Tryum, Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld and his associate Leana are ordered to journey to the exotic city of Kuvash in Koton, where a revered priest has gone missing. When they arrive, they discover the priest has already been found - or at least parts of him have.

But investigating the unusual death isn't a priority for the legislature of Kuvash; there's a kingdom to run, a census to create and a dictatorial Queen to placate. Soon Drakenfeld finds that he is suddenly in charge of an investigation in a strange city, whose customs and politics are as complex as they are dangerous.

Kuvash is a city of contradictions; wealth and poverty exist uneasily side-by-side and behind the rich façades of gilded streets and buildings, all levels of depravity and decadence are practised.

When several more bodies are discovered mutilated and dumped in a public place, Drakenfeld realizes there's a killer at work who seems to delight in torture and pain. With no motive, no leads and no suspects, he feels like he's running out of options. And in a city where nothing is as it seems, seeking the truth is likely to get him killed . . .

Last year I read the amazing first installment in Mark Charan Newton's latest series, Lucan Drakenfeld, the book Drakenfeld. Every once in a while you come across a book that just has everything, a new concept that is worked out in the smallest details giving a terrific reading experience and this is precisely what Mark Charan Newton brought to show in Drakenfeld. The quasi Roman setting with a detective, crime-thriller story was something new, I couldn't compare it with his earlier books but a lot of reviewers really praised it that it was better than what he has written before. These types of stories, stories that feature detectives can make for a solid ongoing series with case files, one thing that Mark Charan Newton definitely proves in Retribution

Small note: Prior to reading Retribution I read Mark Charan Newton's short story The Messenger, this is a high recommendation as it will definitely get you in the proper reading mode!

Lets move on to the story of Retribution. Once again you follow the adventures of the Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld and his assistance Leana. They have just arrived in their home town and are immediately called back into the saddle to investigate a weird murder case. An importan priest has been murdered in the city of Kuvash and several parts of him have been found, some are still missing. However letting foreigners into your kingdom to let them investigate your business is not something that is often seen in Kuvash and therefore the Sun Chamber had received a second message saying that their assistance is no longer required but this makes the case just more weirder so Lucan and Leana do make their journey to Kuvash. All to soon after arriving there they are forced into protocols and learn just how different their culture is from theirs and how it definitely complicates things. But as officers of The Sun Chamber, Lucan and Leana do have an advantage and though the beginning of their investigation does yield that much, they do start to go their own way and when more murders occur with similar motives, the situation only becomes more desperate to be solved. I have to refrain myself from telling too much of the plot, when it comes down to mysteries you don't want to have the plot spoiled. All I can say is that the victims did have something in common though not something that is easily thought off! But that was something you could have guessed!

It was really cool to see how the story unfolded and Mark Charan Newton had set up his story in a great manner, building up tension from the first crime scene all throughout the new mounting evidence. It is impossible to not get lost in the story. The evidence remains largely unexplainable for Lucan and for Leana which only leaves you further in the dark as well, but in a definite good way. You immediately start to picture who the murdered is in your own mind but it is hard to pick a winner though. I was reading this book in when it was getting dark outside so I didn't have that much reading light and I hit a particular scene in the book I think it was page 150. This scene gave me the chills all over, a very close horror element thrown in the mix that will throw your own conclusions completely off game. Nice way of fully exploiting your build premise and thereby taking your story further. 

I tweeted when I was a few pages into Retribution that it was impossible to to like the main characters: Lucan an Leana. They are well fleshed characters that feel really humane. They act normally and think rationally. Yes they are smart, by education and aren't masterminds. They try to relevate everything with prior experience and interpret everything as logical as possible. In The Messenger and Drakenfeld you already got a nice view of them but in Retribution Mark Charan Newton doesn't shy away to boost their development as characters a bit more and further build and explore them. If you read the first book you know that Lucan has a past, a complicated past and that many things still trouble him. In Retribution these things all come to light again and makes him much more complex, especially when you see his inner struggles with finding out what is right and what is wrong and what is best to do. Even when a cure is so close by, what is the ethical way to do? Leana's character does come a bit less in the spotlight but doesn't take away that her character doesn't develop. Leana is best described as a feisty women who knows her way around with her sword. It was very fun to read the interplay between Lucan and Leana, they don't always see eye to eye but they don;t have shout matches to get their rights but instead know how to talk as adults to each other. This interplay does also have as a results some funny moments. All in all I can only say that I am very pleased with the characterization, they are well developed and one of the finest characters I have read about in a while. 

One thing where Retribution and the Lucan Drakenfeld series really have a plus working in their advantage is the world building. When you look at the front cover alone and the promise of the synopsis it already has a lot of hints of something Epic Fantasy but when you get immersed into the story you really get to see the beauty of the world that Mark Charan Newton creates. In the first book it was already a solid introduction and with Retribution he further builds on the foundation that was put in the right position. In describing the world and surroundings of Kuvash there are some similarities with what you read in Drakenfeld but there are enough distinctions and one aspect that definitely helps here is laying a high emphasis on the intricacy of the Kuvash politics and everything that comes out of it. Really a great combination of building and exploring a world.

Retribution is a terrific continuation of the ground work that Mark Charan Newton put into place in Drakenfeld. There isn't much to do besides loving this series. The whole world that is envisioned in these books is one-of-a-kind and has a lot of great elements working in it's favor. The elements that make up this world are all gathered from different directions of fantasy, which Mark Charan Newton skillfully combines. Added to this comes a set of protagonists that are just as rich and interesting as the world itself. They aren't your standard boastful all powerful all knowing kind invulnerable kind of characters, but they have flaws. Flaws that they have come to understand and use and live with, both Lucan and Leana are very well portrayed, perhaps one of the best humanlike characters I have read so far. So all in all, yes Retribution is a awesome read and will definitely be placed in my top of 2014 list. I kindly urge you to pick it up as well.


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