Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton
The story revolves around Lucan Drakenfeld, an Officer of the Sun Chamber. The Sun Chamber is an independent organisation that keeps the peace between the nations of Vaspasia. He works together with his bodyguard Leana. At the beginning he’s ordered back to his home city Tryum, because his father, another officer of the Sun Chamber, has died. From his arrival onwards, Lucan is ensnared in the mystery about his father’s death and the death of the King’s sister. The reader follows him through the maze of leads, hints, and speculation. The murder of the King’s sister is a locked room case and it’s not easy to resolve. Torn between the duty to his father and his duties as a Sun Chamber officer, Lucan has a lot to deal with and many mysteries to uncover. In their search for the truth they make powerful enemies and not many friends.
The setting is a mix between ancient roman culture and the greek city states. It is very well done and Tryum is an interesting mess of different religions, cultures, and groups. It is a dangerous place and Leana has to show her skills with the sword to protect Lucan. Not only that, strange magic seems to drift around the place too. The Sun Chamber and it’s place as a peace-keeper is a great idea. Officers have extensive powers, even over kings and queens. Though they keep the peace in Vaspasia, not everyone is happy with the current system.
Both characters have interesting personalities. They carry their burdens and do what’s necessary to enforce the law. We learn many things about them over the course of the story. Especially Lucan needs to be careful, because he carries a secret that nobody can find out. Since it’s a first-person narrative, we learn many things about him. Lucan’s a brilliant man, but very down to earth, which makes him easy to identify with. Not only do we learn more about their characters and pasts, there are many hints at dangerous adventures they’ve already mastered. This does a lot to ensure us of their skill and proficiency. I hope we’ll learn more about these adventures in later installments, because they sounded very interesting to read about.
The biggest problem I had with the book was the lack of tension that sometimes creeps into it. Especially the action didn’t generate much tension, mostly because of the overwhelming skill of Leana. To follow Lucan in his search for the murderer of the King’s sister is interesting, but for most of the book it’s not something a reader perceives as dangerous. The ending takes on speed and tension, but it still didn’t make me fear for anyone important or for failure in their mission. It is very interesting to read and I enjoyed it, but I would have liked some more tension to spice it up.
What Mark Charan Newton does very good is hint at much more going on behind the scenes. There are mysteries in the Drakenfeld family Lucan has yet to uncover and turmoil is bruing brewing in Vaspasia.
The book is carried by it’s strong narrator and an interesting and unique setting. The story itself is good, but not groundbreaking. It’s a very good start for a series, because there is much more going on in the shadows and there are many mystery I want to see the answer to. Mark Charan Newton gets the reader involved and engaged. He builds a world that’s living, with all its good and bad parts. We experience this world through Lucan and his thoughtfulness, and that was a good choice on Newton’s side. While I normally don’t like first-person narratives, it works very well for Drakenfeld.
If you like any of the three things — crime fiction, fantasy, ancient history — you’ll find an interesting book.