Review: The Book of Transformations

This post will include my review of the book The Book of Transformations by Mark Charan Newton. The third book in the Legends of the Red Sun series, released in July 2012.

The text below is taken from the blurb on the back of the book.

A new and corrupt Emperor seeks to rebuild the ancient structures of Villjamur to give the people of the city hope in the face of great upheaval and an oppressing ice age. But when a stranger called Shalev arrives, empowering a militant underground movement, crime and terror becomes rampant.

The Inquisition is always one step behind, and military resources are spread thinly across the Empire. So Emperor Urtica calls upon cultists to help construct a group to eliminate those involved with the uprising, and calm the populace. But there’s more to The Villjamur Knights than just phenomenal skills and abilities – each have a secret that, if exposed, could destroy everything they represent. Investigator Fulcrom of the Villjamur Inquisition is given the unenviable task of managing the Knights’, but his own skills are tested when a mysterious priest, who has travelled from beyond the fringes of the Empire, seeks his help. The priest’s existence threatens the church, and his quest promises to unweave the fabric of the world.

And in a distant corner of the Empire, the enigmatic cultist Dartun Súr steps back into this world, having witnessed horrors beyond his imagination. Broken, altered, he and the remnants of his cultist order are heading back to Villjamur. All eyes turn to the Sanctuary City, for Villjamur’s ancient legends are about to be shattered…

This series is dark fantasy, and this book is no exception, in fact I think this is actually the darkest of the books so far. Villjamur is a cold, bleak, place with the new Emperor Urtica on the verge of losing everything he finagled his way into. All the bribes, murders, and politicking could come to naught given the threat that faces the ancient city.

Enter the Villjamur Knights.

In keeping with the Emperor’s methods are three individuals who are blackmailed into accepting transformations that will give them powers; strength, speed, even the ability to fly. They are tasked with protecting the people of the city. But the question is who should they protect them from? The corrupt emperor, or the so called anarchist, Shalev who is giving the poor people of Caveside (a region of the city) a better life than they ever thought possible.

Add to this mix, a priest on a mission to bring Frater Mercury back from his extra-dimensional exile (every time I read that name I pictured Freddie Mercury – I wonder if perhaps the name is in fact an homage to that legendary vocalist) to help save the world from invasion. Plus the modified cultist Dartun who is cutting a swath of destructions to reach the city for some clearly nefarious purpose.

This book has rather a lot going on. From a trans-gender main character, politics that blurs the line of right and wrong, technology, magic, action, and the bleakness created by the coming ice age. I think that the author did a great job of keeping all the balls in the air.

There is no classic battle between good and evil here. I like to think of this book as depicting a battle between good and legal. On the one hand Shalev has been helping a good many people lead a better life, but she is using violence and death to achieve her ends. On the other is the Emperor who while being the legal ruler of the city is as self centred and corrupt as they come – yet he has the right of law on his side.

In an environment like that there can be no clear winners and in fact by the end this book I found myself thinking how in the hell is humanity going to survive what is happening.

A dark book, with a dark ending, but certainly captivating enough to make me eagerly anticipate book four.


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