Title: Scar Night
Author: Alan Campbell
Published: May 2007
Before I say anything else Alan Campbell’s debut novel Scar Night is an amazing creation. Not only does he create rounded characters, he creates a believable world for them to live. I enjoyed reading it immensely but it’s not without its problems. Though before I get into all that let me tell you what it’s all about.
Dill is the last of his line. A battle-archon whose role is to protect the faithful and the Temple of Deepgate. But he’s not a fighter. The role is now ceremonial as the battleships do the fighting and the flying. Dill is left to stand on the roof unable to fly and release the occasional bucket of snails from his room in the Temple kitchens.
The city of Deepgate is suspended by great chains that have been interlinked over the years by lesser chains and ropes. This combined with its industrial needs have created several districts but overlooking them all is the Temple of Ucis. Ulcis is the undead God who is gathering an army of Ghosts, the dead of Deepgate, to reclaim his place in heaven.
As events unfold it is Dill who has no choice but to descend below and find out what hell really looks like.
When I started reading I wasn’t sure what expect. I expected Dill to go for feeble boy to a warrior man and save everyone. But he doesn’t, well not in that Hollywood hero way and that’s a good thing.
Instead Alan Campbell presents an exploration of life, death and faith and how what we believe can build and build until its foundations are forgotten. He also shows that no one is as bad as they first appear.
The trouble is I’m not sure that Campbell always had the balance quite right. The bad characters have some qualities that strip away some of their nastiness, which is alright, but somehow made me pause and wonder about their motives.
Saying that though he does well to give individuality to the minor as well as major characters and my thoughts about some of the motivations didn’t distract or undermine my enjoyment of Scar Night.
In fact I couldn’t wait to see what Campbell did next. Somehow he kept managing to surprise me in terms of what happened in the story and how he got there.
And at the end he left me in no doubt that this was only the beginning.
I recommend this for anyone who likes their fantasy to break and twist conventions and who likes their stories dark with a light at the end of a tunnel. I’m eager to read the just released Iron Angel.