Monday, 21 January 2013
Posted by emmetocuana at 19:14
The further Fogwill got from Mr. Nettle's house, the more his nausea and vertigo returned. Here, as in all areas on the outskirts of the city, the distance between the great chains was at its widest; more of each neighbourhood being supported by a less substantial web of chain, cable and rope.
Everything wobbled, shook and groaned. Wood sweated. The smell was frightful. Like a sick-house full of plague victims. This entire district is rotting, ill.
Ropes threatened to snap. One cut would bring the whole nasty, ugly, filthy, smelly lot down into the abyss.
Alan Campbell's fantasy novel debut is actually the first of a trilogy titled the Deepgate Codex. Unlike other fantasy trilogies though, Scar Night reads less like an opening chapter to a longer series than a self-contained, short and nasty tale of angels, cthonic gods, biological warfare and an impossible city.
Opening with an oblique prelude set two thousand years before the events of the novel, the story begins with a description of the city of Deepgate, suspended over a vast abyss by chains. The inhabitants worship the god Ulcis, said to have fallen to earth, creating the chasm itself. When citizens die they are dropped down to join their god, in the hopes of their souls joining an army capable of retaking heaven.
Dill is the last of a line of angelic beings crossbred with humans to serve as protectors of Deepgate. Unlike his ancestors though, he is weak and gentle, hidden from the world by the priests of Ulcis in the Temple and forbidden even from flying. He is entrusted into the care of Rachel Hael, an assassin who feels too much, in order to prepare him to become an Archon of Deepgate, but he has little aptitude.
However, there is another angel in the city, the vicious Carnival, who attacks during Scar Night to feed on souls. Carnival's victims not only suffer terrible deaths, but their corpses are forbidden from being given to Ulcis. When a father loses his only daughter, he blames the supernatural predator and sets off to provoke her into a confrontation. Unbeknownst to everyone, an even greater threat than the mad angel is hidden within Deepgate, planning its destruction.
Campbell's novel intrigues with its luciferan theology and weird worldbuilding. The striking names of the characters, as well as Dill's apprenticeship within the Temple, brings to mind Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, with the unbeatific angels reminiscent of Steph Swainston's winged junkie narrator from The Year of Our War. The plot moves surprisingly fast, covering a lot of ground before the conclusion. Having set such a climactic sequence of events in motion, it is intriguing as to where Campbell intends the story to go next - though thankfully the Deepgate Codex is completed. At times, particularly in the last few chapters, it almost feels as if it is in too much of a hurry, spoiling the atmosphere of the earlier part of the book. Still this is a gripping first novel and an interesting start to a fantasy trilogy.
Labels: Alan Campbell, Books, Fantasy, Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake, Scar Night, Steph Swainston, The Deepgate Codex, The Year of Our War |