THE REEF by Mark Charan Newton

Many readers first found Newton’s work with Nights of Villjamur (REVIEW), a novel that is often mis-attributed as the author’s debut. In reality, Newton’s first published novel, albeit by a small press, was The Reef, a novel tangentially related to his current Legends of The Red Sun series, but ostensibly a stand alone.

Newton, on the novel:

It was published a few years back with UK indie publisher, Pendragon Press, but only in limited numbers. So the folks at Tor UK decided it would be a great idea to make it available to buy as a digital edition – and for less than two quid. Quite a few people have asked about this title over the last couple of years, so it only seemed logical to bring it back in this format. Of course, it’s much more expensive to do these things with another print run, but one of the cool things about ebooks is being able to publish digital versions of books that wouldn’t otherwise have been released.

I feel I’ve grown a heck of a lot as a writer since this book. I wrote it when I was 23 or 24 years old, and that was an age when I was experimenting with themes and finding my feet. My outlook on the world is different, as is my awareness of various issues, but I’m still proud of this little tome.

And Adam at The Wertzone says:

The Reef is an intriguing novel. Although the events that unfold have potentially huge ramifications for the continent of Has-jahn and the rest of the world, it’s largely a small-scale story focusing on the island of Arya and those who visit it. Whilst the novel is apparently about a mystery – who is behind a spate of murders on the island – it’s actually much more of a character study, particularly looking at the dynamics of relationships and desire. The book succeeds admirably at both tasks, with the mystery unfolding satisfyingly and the book’s comments on relationships interesting and thought-provoking. Manolin is a sympathetic but flawed protagonist, and his companions are also well-drawn, as are Jella’s crew of terrorists (although I’d like to have learned more about the enigmatic and lethal Allocen). Whilst Newton’s prose has improved since The Reef, it’s still nicely different to a lot of fantasy books out there, with its poised manners and stylistic speech inflections reminiscent of Victorian fiction. The worldbuilding is also top-notch. As far as I can tell, The Reef is set on the same world as Nights of Villjamur (they share the non-human race of the rumel), but in a more distant location, maybe the other side of the world, since none of the locations in either book is mentioned in the other. The ‘Dying Earth’ feel Newton is looking for with this world of ancient, forgotten technology is again successfully achieved here.

It’s certainly of interest to fans of Newton, and likely anyone looking for some early, experimental work from one of the genre’s most interesting young writers. It’s also nice to see Tor UK put their weight behind the book (they didn’t published it initially), though one wonders if Newton might not have just published it himself. Good news, either way.

The Reef is available as an eBook.