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Literature / Legends of the Red Sun

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A fantasy series by British author Mark Charan Newton set in a fantasy world faced with an impending ice age. The series has received critical acclaim for its stellar world building, unconventional characters and exploration of real-life issues.

Legends of the Red Sun has been compared to the works of Gene Wolfe and China MiƩville, the latter of whom has given it a favorable judgment. Legends of The Red Sun has also been viewed as the closing chapter of the New Weird era of the 2000s, as that subgenre was falling out of favour after the heights of Mieville's New Crobuzon.

The series consists of:

  1. Nights of Villjamur (2009)
  2. City of Ruin (2010)
  3. The Book of Transformations (2012)
  4. The Broken Isles (2014)

This series contains examples of:

  • Alien Invasion: But they're former creations of humanity.
  • Always Someone Better: Papus, the leader of her cult thought she was the greatest scientist on Earth. However when she went through Dartun Sur's belongings, she finds out that he's much better versed in Dawnir technology than she ever was. Also Malum the half-vampire is the king badass in Villren, but he's completely curbstomped when he goes up against the albino Super-Soldier Commander Brynd.
  • Anti-Villain: Dartun Sur, who's not inherently evil and genuinely cares for his lover/henchwoman Verain. However he's willing to go through with research that other cultist factions find abhorrent and now that he's losing his immortality, he'll go to great lengths to secure it.
  • Anyone Can Die: Nobody is safe.
  • The Archmage: Frater Mercury is the ancient scientist-wizard that created all the inhuman beings found in the series and he created the Book of Transformation which is a text containing many spells. Pretty much he has at least a small responsibility for all the strange things that happen in Villjamur.
  • Armor of Invincibility: The Okun are so devastating in part because their shells are almost impervious to attack. It takes Cultist augmented blades and high explosives to take them down. Factory 54 get their hands on some of these shells and are able to replicate the material for a next generation of armour for the Night Guard.
  • Art Initiates Life: Tuya's paintings. She once had a customer who was a cultist and he found out about her hobby, so he gave her an artifact paint that makes image come to life.
  • Badass Bookworm: The Order of the Grey Hair are a trio of elderly cultists who completely trash a giant spider that had previously murdered with impunity and they crump a group of murder spirits as well. Factory 54 is a group of kids who were held by unethical cultists for sexual abuse and potential experimentation, but they escaped and made off with a good number of relics. Factory 54 then go on to learn many Dawnir and ancient human secrets from tribes and burial sites to become a high end cultist group.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Urtica slits his own throat once he realizes that the anarchists are beating his military and he discovers that the Night Guard and Imperial Dragoons have thrown in with the deposed Jamur sisters. His death robs the anarchists the pleasure of killing him for themselves.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When Malum and his mob attack the Citadel, they nearly break through until Factory 54 fly in on Mourning Wasps to frighten the mob. This caused most of them to flee, leaving only the hardcore gangs to continue a greatly blunted attack.
  • Bird People: The Garuda are a race of bird people who serve as scouts in the Villjamur military.
  • Body Horror: Taking a page from China Mieville, the series is chock full of Body Horror. Perhaps the most standout example is at the end of Book 2, the psychopathic doctor with some cultist knowledge ends up turning the patients at emergency relief centre into abominations by grafting various creature parts on them and doing other evil surgical procedures.
  • The Big Guy: Artemisia is an eight-foot tall blue skinned woman who carries a pair of swords that a human would have difficulty in using just a single one.
  • The Casanova: Randur Estevu. He tries paying his mother's medical fee by sleeping around with wealthy women and stealing some of their jewellery to pawn.
  • Cool Old Guy: Denlin, who's a comparatively decent man and can shoot down a garuda in flight with a bow and arrow.
  • Crapsack World: The world is afflicted with small Ice Ages that last for decades and humanity has declined to a medieval level technology. Starvation is common, poverty is pervasive to the common folk while the uncaring rich are buffered by protective walls and guards. Additionally gangs rule the streets and homosexuals and transgender people are persecuted. All this has been happening for a long time and then an alien invasion comes along...
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The Order of Grey Hair appear to be a trio of has-been cultists who are entering senility, but they have enormous power and a deep pool of knowledge. Inspector Jeryd lucked out when he bumped into them and got their help.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Jorsalir religion is a Christianity-like religion featuring two Dawnir who were worshipped as gods for saving humanity. What got lost was that the Dawnir themselves were created by humanity in the distant past.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Randur. He discovered the real Randur boasting about having entry documents from the Imperial family. After all the boasting led the real Randur to be shanked, the impostor got a hold of the papers through some contacts.
  • Deal with the Devil: Randur Estevu is trying to save his ill mother and makes a deal with the renegade cultist Dartun Sur, who promises he'll even look into resurrection if it comes to that. In return Randur must come up with 400 Jamur (a fortune in this world). Dartun Sur himself gets a devilish deal when he meets the Akahaioi.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Rika goes insane, Villjamur is destroyed and MANY heroes are dead, but Randur and Eir get married while Fulcrom and Lan are ghosts together. Earth is no longer being frozen as the dimension gates are de-activated (the cold was coming from the Ice Age of the other dimension), benign alien refugees are allowed to settle in the empty lands and Factory 54 promises to be a scientific innovator. There is still going to be a monarchy for stability, but the government will essentially be a democracy and all discriminatory laws have been struck down, including the one that would have gotten Brynd executed as a homosexual. Finally Villjamur may get rebuilt.
  • Evil Chancellor: Chancellor Urtica. He seeks to overthrow the current ruler of Villjamur and unleash a reign of terror.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Despite being set in the far, far future the most advanced non-relic projectile weapon is a modified compound bow. Justified in that the humans of the world had ages ago rejected the technology that grew beyond the understanding of most people and what past technology remains is under the control of the cultists. As such the cultists will provide high explosives to the Villjamur military and they will use energy weapons themselves, but outside the explosive relics not even the military gets anything more advanced than trebuchets, bows and crossbows (a big increase in firepower for the Viljamur army came when cultists cobbled up a ballista!).
    • The Akahaioi are afflicted with this as well, they do retain far more of the ancient relic technology including missile artillery such as the mute bombs, but they have lost more understanding of the use and production of these relics. So the Akahaioi capable of using personal weapons are relegated to using bows, spears and swords.
  • Fantastic Racism: Although non-fantastic prejudices, such as homophobia, skin color and the divide between rich and poor, notably take center stage far more often.
  • Floating Continent: The Akahaioi (the Okun turned out to be just a member race) have brought their entire civilization in the massive sky city Policharos. Without the destruction of the Policharos, it would have been impossible to stop the alien invasion.
  • Giant Spider: A giant humanoid spider is going around kidnapping people in Book 2.
  • Heroes "R" Us: The Villjamur Knights are a successor organization to the Night Guard supersoldiers. Emperor Urtica outright stated that he wants heroes...NO...SUPERHEROES!!! Superpowered individuals who can hunt down the anarchist terrorists and inspire the citizens. So he has the Inquisition and their pet cultists dragoon 3 individuals with skeletons in their closets and turn them into a werecat, a super-strong heavy and a girl who can fly to a degree.
  • Hidden Depths: The superstrong Vuldon of the Villjamur Knights seems like a brute, but he used to be an amazing law enforcement officer who was nicknamed The Legend for being so effective. He is also secretly a comic book writer who makes the well-loved children's underground comic Mythmaker which is based on his life.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Nelum, a devoutly religious Night Guard, tries to kill the homosexual Brynd with a knife made out of botullism toxin. Instead, during their tussle, Nelum accidentally stabs himself and the concentrated poison is more than even his Night Guard resistance can handle.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Tuya Daluud. Despite her cynicism with men, she helps Jeryd improve his relation with his wife and she also is a patron of the arts.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The leader of the Screams gang was born from the union of a human male and a banshee. As such he's referred to as a banHe and while he can detect imminent death like a real banshee, he ends up vomiting explosively instead of wailing. This later causes his death during the Okun invasion, so many people die that he exploded from vomiting so much.
  • Human Resources: The invaders have been removing bones from human corpses. The reason is that in their culture, human bone is a highly sought after building material.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Despite the lack of animal farms nearby, the city of Villren has an enormous supply of fresh meat, it turns out the population of Villren had been unwittingly eating human and Rumel flesh as a local doctor has been doing a Sweeney Todd. Rika becomes one because of her failed psychic bond with Artemisia, this causes her to become an inhumanly strong crazy cannibal in the final book.
  • Immortality Seeker: Dartun. Played with in that Dartun was originally immortal, having agelessness and regeneration from his relics. But centuries later, his relics could no longer sustain his immortality and so he's looking for other means to be immortal.
  • Invading Refugees: The Okun are alien invaders from another dimension, who are coming because their world is dying.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Rumex Jeryd and Brynd Lathraea.
  • Last of His Kind: Jurro. Jurro is a remnant Dawnir that was discovered over a thousand years ago. At his discovery, people were amazed at meeting a member of the race that they worship as gods. Then they discover he has amnesia and had nothing to offer. But for his studious nature and immensely long lifespan, the Imperial family keep him as something of a pet.
  • Long-Lived: The rumel can live for well over 200 years (200 years is middle-age to early old age), this long lifespan and resulting experiences are the official reason why only rumel can be senior inspectors (actual reason is a peace treaty between human and rumel). But this is nothing compared to the Dawnir, Jurro has lived for over 1000 years and it turns out that he's actually a child!
  • Lost Technology: The Dawnir artifacts and the precursor human tech, these items range from things no different to contemporary 20-21st century tech to things that can warp reality.
  • Machine Worship: The cultists are a pseudo-religious group obsessed with Dawnir technology and the application and understanding of it. They have established a monopoly on the control of Dawnir relics and are powerful enough to stand outside the control of the Emperor and the Inquisition.
  • Mad Scientist: Dartun Sur and many other cultists cross the standard ethical guidelines, engaging in activities such as necromancy.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Urtica. He successfully sets up a deadly ambush for the Night Guard on a routine resource run and frames the ruling Jamur sisters for the attempted massacre of refugees.
  • Magitek: Some of the relics make use of ley lines to power up mystical forces. One example is in Book 2 where the Order of the Grey Hair create a titanic squid from the ley lines of Villren.
  • Magic from Technology: The Dawnir super-science relics are often mistaken for actual magic by commoners. Even those who deal regularly with the cultists' Dawnir technology are baffled by it (understandable when said technology can do things like teleport, create life from paintings and animate corpses into zombies). Ancient human science had reached such an apex that the majority of the population could no longer understand it and they rebelled by going Luddite.
  • Master Swordsman: Randur proclaims himself the finest swordsman of the Islands (the people there are renowned for swordsmanship). He proves this in the final book, when he holds off the half-vampire Malum despite him being out of shape from lack of action. Even without his Night Guard augmentations, Brynd is the finest swordsman in the Villjamur military.
  • Matter Replicator: An artifact that the Factory 54 cultist kids use to replicate the material in Okun shells. They then use the process to mass manufacture armour of that substance.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Dawnir artifacts sought and used by the cultists can be advanced to the point of Magic from Technology but were still perhaps "normal" as the early books were Science Fantasy. This all changed when Frater Mercury makes his appearance and reveals that magic is real. And ghosts are real too. At this point then, it's unknown if the really bizarre Dawnir items are actually Magitek instead of products of superscience.
  • New Weird: Throw in a bit of detective fiction, some political intrigue, an alien invasion and a smattering of Book of the New Sun and The Etched City and you get this series. China MiĆ©ville even throws in a monster for the final book.
  • Noble Demon: Played with in regards to Malum. When we first see him, he has genuine noble qualities, such as his disgust of forcible prostitution and pedophilia...later on, we gradually see what a dangerous and monstrous person he really is. He also considers being homosexual a reason to kill someone.
  • Off with His Head!: Brynd punishes Malum with a decapitation and mounting his head on a spike, after the gangs had attempted a coup in the final book.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Brought over from another dimension, these are artificially created living things based on the creatures from human legends. They can't breathe fire, but they're tame and with their strength plus size, they make excellent troop transport.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Malum and his gang, the Bloods are only half vampires. When Malum willingly undergoes vampirism, his sire was so addicted to booze and drugs that he didn't get the full effect. He later vampirizes most of the members of his gang and they to only got a weakened version of vampirism.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Reanimated by lost science and used as an obedient personal army, to be precise.
  • Poisoned Weapons: The Night Guard, Nelum buys a knife made out of the solidified toxin of the botullism bacteria. He intends to use it to kill his commander Brynd before Brynd can get the upgraded Night Guard modification.
  • Proper Lady / Silk Hiding Steel: Rika. Before she became a cannibal, she was a princess turned nun who despite her initial frailty, was able to adapt to surviving on the road after the coup that deposed her.
  • The Protagonist: It takes a bit of time, but the series eventually establishes Brynd as the main character of the series with every other surviving view-point character being relegated to secondary roles.
  • Psychic Link: Artemisia tries to establish a psychic link with Rika to improve the chances of Rika allowing alien refugees to settle, unfortunately because of Rika's extreme religious devotion the psychic link drives Rika mad.
  • Reality Warper: Frater Mercury has the power of creation and can manipulate the laws of physics.
  • The Resenter: Tryst, who can never rise any further in the Inquisition because of being human not Rumel, joins the Ovidist cult (this is a true evil cult, unlike the cultists who are actually members of various orders of scientists/techs.
  • The Reveal: The Earth isn't actually undergoing an Ice Age, the cold is coming from the other dimension where the aliens are invading from.
  • Shout-Out: Dartun wears a cloak of fuligin, the color darker than black.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Lupus of the Night Guard has become sick of the fighting and losing so many comrades to the Okun (Akahaioi) attack. He abandons the Night Guard and goes with his cultist lover Bemi to a paradise world captured in time by her relics.
  • Smug Snake: Urtica again. His attempted invasion of the Vartung results in much of the Imperial Dragoon getting killed by icebergs and he's completely out of his league when dealing with the anarchist uprising.
  • Spell Book: The Book of Transformations, the heretic priest Ulryk has a lesser copy and is trying to find the superior version so that he can summon Frater Mercury who's lost in another dimension.
  • Special Guest: China Mieville is a big fan of the series and he designed a creature called the Mourning Wasp for it. The Mourning Wasp then featured in the prologue of the final book and play an important role in the book.
  • Straight Gay: Brynd.
  • Summon Magic: Tuya had been murdering people by using her relic paint to create monsters that she summons to attack her victims. Also in the 2nd book, Malum hires an evil witch to kill his ex-wife Bemi. The witch uses magic to summon a Cereberus-like demon. And in the 3rd book, the Jorsalir church summon a nephilim to try and kill Ulryk.
    • Factory 54 may be under contract to make armour for the Night Guard, but their real business is to create horrible looking monsters.
  • Super-Soldier: The Night Guard are the elite of the Imperial Dragoons and are further enhanced with cultist injections. They get enhanced senses (capable of seeing into spectrums beyond the human eye), improved reflexes, enhanced durability, strength and wound recovery. In Book 2, the Night Guard undergo an experimental further enhancement which make them tough enough to withstand a building collapsing on them.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Magic does exist in this world. Certain phrases and words that have been recorded and analyzed are able to enact change on the world without the use of Dawnir relics.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Tuya had been murdering politicians who plotted the mass murder of refugees.
  • Take Up My Sword: Inspector Jeryd goes into self-imposed exile to another city after events in the first book. He's later killed and effectively his role as the hard-nosed detective of Villjamur is taken up by Inspector Fulcrom who aided him before.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Eir, by the end of the first book. She got lessons in dance and swordsmanship from Randur. The entire surviving Night Guard gets one when an Imperial cultist develops a upgrade treatment that greatly enhances their already superhuman attributes.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Eir was initially a spoiled, temperamental aristocrat who thought the lower classes earned their poverty. But through exposure to people outside of the ruling circles, her sense of compassion develops and she eventually volunteers at a hospital in the final book before becoming the monarch.
  • Together in Death: Inspector Fulcrom and Lan are murdered by Malum and the Bloods. Before the execution, Fulcrom specifically asks that they are killed and buried together rather than created. In this world, burial can condemn a soul to be trapped in the world, so Fulcrom and Lan are ghosts together.
  • Torture Technician: Tryst. For the police and Urtica, he's one of the guys that does the harsh interrogation.
  • Trick Bomb: The Akahaioi use super-science missiles dubbed mute bombs, which not only cause massive explosions but also make nearby victims mute.
  • Tsundere: Eir for Randur, she was initially a spoiled princess to him but does love the guy and is very generous to him - including donating the money towards a cure for his mom.
  • Unmasqued World: There really is magic in the world of the Red Sun and not just sufficiently advanced tech. The priest Urlyk ends up releasing ghosts trapped in the underworld of Villjamur and these run about the city to wreak small havok. The real kicker though was when Villjamur is destroyed. The survivors are carried out by horse and carriages the size of skyscrapers, these were created by magic from Frater Mercury.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Chancellor Urtica who puts on the show of being a good and loyal chancellor, when in reality he's plotting a coup and runs a Religion of Evil.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: The Akahaioi seemingly grant Dartun Sur's desire for reclaiming his immortality by rebuilding his body with bionics. It turns out his implants were there to get him and his surviving cultists to Villjamur and become a living dimension gate for summoning in an invasion force.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Inspector Jeryd's wife, Merysa is left pointlessly waiting for him at the end of Book 2. No word is mentioned about what happens to her.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Inspector Jeryd is terrified of regular spiders and then he has to deal with a giant one in Book 2. Thanks to some cultist help, he gets over it.
  • Wretched Hive: Villiren, described as the most lawless city in the Empire.