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It's an immersive location, one that draws from the author's own readings on Ancient Rome, but one that also feels just as modern and as complicated as our own. Drakenfeld as a character is a nice alternative to the 'Grimdark' characters of Joe Abercrombie or Richard Morgan. He's the straight man archetype, inherently good, competent, and maybe a little boring: if not for his job, he'd be someone you wouldn't glance at twice.

At the center of this storm, he's the right guy to sort out the problems, even as he's being manipulated by various parties within the city and at the center of the murders.

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You can't help but root for Drakenfeld as he works to both reconnect with his past through an ex-lover and father who's left behind a bit of a mess , but you can't help but wonder how he'll react when the world inevitably crashes down around him. Since Drakenfeld is accompanied by an assistant, Leana, an outsider to Tyrum, Newton gets to explore some pointed thoughts on racism and sexism, without being heavy-handed.

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Drakenfeld is a contagiously optimistic novel, from its politics to its characters. Newton's ancient-styled world also belies the real nature of his novel: this is a cutting-edge political thriller that for the most part, wouldn't be out of place in a major city like London or New York or modern day Rome.

Some pretty modern ideas are advanced here: the idea of a continental-wide, cooperative Union is a fairly recent innovation in human history, and it's clear by the end of the book how this body is a stabilizing force, and we're given some pointed hints along the way that the balance is always in flux and ready to collapse.

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Above all of this is a running theme of how a representative government can hold the actions of a ruling class accountable for their actions, and there's some real authoritarian overtones by the end of the novel that might lead to things to come in future installments. If there's one downside to the book, I can't help but wonder just why it's a fantasy novel. In a couple of ways, I could see the story working fairly well as a modern political thriller, set in a 5 minutes into the future scenario.

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While fantasy-lite novels are certainly welcome and this one's handled well , I found myself waiting for something about this world that would make this mystery work because of it's internal workings: ie, is there a magical or otherwise fantastic element that caused the initial murders? There's really nothing like that there, and what this ends up as is a novel that's hard to pin down when it comes to genre.

Series: Lucan Drakenfeld

On one hand, this is good, because it shows that genre doesn't have to limit the content of the book. On the other hand, however, there's certain expectations and conventions within the fantasy canon that never come to any fruition here, and it left me a bit underwhelmed at the lost potential here. The central mystery likewise caused a bit of a split in reaction from me.

On one hand, Newton expertly puts together pieces of a puzzle: bodies drop, clues are left behind as a major conspiracy comes together, before the other hand shows itself, with something that falls very close to Game of Thrones territory.

Drakenfeld Series

The mystery works, and works well, but I can't help but think that we've seen this party before, and it didn't end well then. The King's sister has been found brutally murdered - her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target, as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power.

Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realizes the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.