Last year, in Drakenfeld, Mark Charan Newton introduced us to his Classically-inspired fantasy empire and the shadowy investigative body that kept it held together: the Sun Chamber. Drakenfeld followed one of the Sun Chamber's star (sorry) investigators, the titular Lucan Drakenfeld, as he foiled a series of hideous crimes in the nation of Detrata. In the best tradition of both fantasy and crime novels, Drakenfeld mixed the epic with the deeply personal: Lucan's actions swayed the fate of an empire, but he also wrestled with the demons from his own past.
In Retribution (2014), the second volume, Drakenfeld returns - as does his ruthlessly efficient assistant, Leana. The two leave Detrata for Koton, leaving the old for the new; a metaphor that spans many levels. Whilst Detrata is an ancient, seemingly-established (almost decadent) nation, Koton is a new one - just barely stabilised after years of turmoil. Similarly, whereas Detrata is deeply personally significant to Drakenfeld - a land weighty with his own family's past - Koton is new territory. Not only has Drakenfeld never been there, no Sun Chamber investigator has even been invited before.
Koton is a fascinating place. It has recently been united under the rule of Queen Dokuz, one of the book's most interesting characters. On one hand, she's brought order to a population of warring tribes and is busily trying to modernise her country into a player on the world stage. On the other, she's a ruthless dictator. Through Drakenfeld's eyes, Retribution treats her situation with the respect and moral ambiguity it requires - there are no easy answers to Koton's future, and whether or not Dokuz will be seen as a saviour or a demon will be determined by posterity.