Review: Scar Night

Posted: December 21, 2010 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Alan Campbell, Fantasy

It happens more often than you think. Sometimes we just don’t read certain books. It has to do with time, opportunity, cost, motivation or whatever. The end result is the same, and the book sits there in the “To Be Read” pile. It’s a shame, because we miss a lot of great novels this way. We were recently asked to review some of the various novels out there that don’t seem to get a lot of push, and this reminded us of those copies of Alan Campbell’s novels that we bought forever ago.

Alan Campbell’s SCAR NIGHT (Amazon) is one of those novels about which people always say, “Oh yeah, I’ve always wondered if that book was any good. I just never manage to get around to it.” We were in that group. What you need to do is follow our lead here. Stop messing around and go read this book.

SCAR NIGHT is the first book in the Deepgate Codex series. What we have is a city—the city of Deepgate—suspended by chains over a supposedly bottomless chasm. The immediate visuals of the setting are terrific, and Campbell descriptions keep the setting alive throughout the full extent of the novel. It’s original, fresh, and lends to all sort of later conflict.

But that’s not all this novel has going for it. There are some light steampunk offerings. Angels. Quasi-angels. Devils. Poisoners. Assassins. Zombie-ish things. Gods alive and kind-of alive. In other words, the novel is full. Unlike some other offerings over the past couple of years, this abundance of…uh, stuff…never feels like a laundry list. It is all developed too the level that a first novel in a series allows.

Lets talk characters. Dill is an angel who is forbidden the act of flying. He is the last descendant of on of the warrior angels of the past. His life is mostly one of boredom and longing until he meets Rachel, an assassin who is viewed as expendable by her order. Both of these characters gravitate towards each other as outcasts, and for the most part their chemistry is well done. Rachel is a tad rough in spots, and though she is regarded in scorn by her fellow assassins, she never seems less of an assassin than they are. In fact, there are things she says that makes her seem positively brutal…those are scenes we wish we could have seen. Dill is perfectly written in his role. Innocent. Naive. Honorable.

SCAR NIGHT is what every fantasy reader needs to refresh themselves. It is a true melting pot of ideas that shouldn’t blend together, yet somehow do.

Once a moon-cycle comes Scar Night, a night on which Carnival, another angel gone mad, roams the city looking for a victim to kill and drain of blood. She is a fantastic character through which we get to see madness, sadness, torment and cruelty. And it all usually happens at the same time. In a similar vein (hehe), someone else is roaming Deepgate killing people in a similar manner. The goal of that person? To make a concoction of people’s souls that will grant immortality.

The pacing of this novel is unrelenting. There is no slow-down, though there isn’t a huge amount of action. Campbell’s writing, to us, was perfectly accessible while not falling into simplistic clichés. And this story isn’t all jelly beans and rainbows. It is grim. It is dark. In a way we were reminded of a less explicit Neil Gaiman with just a tad of Miéville thrown in.

Perhaps the only issue we had was with some of the side characters that got main character screen time. Their sections dragged a bit, all the while we wondered what was going to happen with the angels and assassins. It wasn’t major, but you’ll notice it when you start reading.

So. SCAR NIGHT. What a fun, fresh read. This is what every fantasy reader needs to read to refresh themselves. It is a true melting pot of ideas that shouldn’t blend together, yet somehow do. Campbell’s story here ends with everything in disarray and on a medium sized cliff-hanger, but since we already bought the other novels in the series we don’t have to wait at all. Yep, we’ll be reviewing the full series as we read it. Go out and grab these novels. You won’t regret it in the least.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: There was relatively little, though when it did show up it would be in a paragraph burst followed by a hundred pages without any
  • Violence: Yeah. Depending on the type of reader you are, it can mess with you.
  • Sex: Nope

Or you can also snag it from Book Depository. They’re awesome.

Note: In hindsight, the covers probably aren’t helping Campbell’s sales in the USA. The UK covers are completely awesome, and are the versions we chose to buy. You may wanna consider doing the same if you are here in the States. Remember, Book Depository is your friend and ours.


  • Gina says:

    Could we get a list of your “To-Be-Read” pile, or books that you read and liked and didn't write a review for? I'm sure there are a ton of great books that I never heard of that miraculously happen to be sitting on your coffee table.

    BTW, I've had Scar Night sitting in my to-be-read pile for years (pretty much since it came out) and after reading the other review where you mentioned that this book did everything right, I finally picked it up and read it in just a few nights and LOVED IT. Going right into the second one. A point for you guys!

  • Justin says:

    I think I might have been the one to gripe about overlooked authors in an email about Daniel Abraham's work. Steve mentioned Alan Campbell in the reply and I picked this book up… People need to read this guys stuff. Too much fun.

    • @Justin – Yep, you were one of a couple people requesting similar stuff. That said, I'm glad you picked up SCAR NIGHT and enjoyed it! Once I get caught up on a few other novels, I'll be reading the other stuff by Campbell and reviewing it here.

    • Dan Smyth says:

      I've been hammering for coverage on Daniel Abraham from this end as well, Justin. Absolutely planning on doing reviews for The Dragon's Path come April and for Leviathan Wakes as well in June. I've been meaning to get to Scar Night for a long time too, and I can't help but think that it's the cover art that just kept me putting it off, as Steve mentions above. Poor guy, Campbell. Sounds like he needs some love from the popularity gods. Good thing we have something to say about it. 🙂

  • Justin says:

    Peeling through Iron Angel now.. Like Abraham's Long Price, it appears Campbell's Deepgate Codex gets better with each book. No complaints so far. Cheers!

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