Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Red Wolf Conspiracy, Robert V.S Redick

"Six hundred years old, the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is a massive floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the Mzithrin Empire. But Thasha, the young noblewoman in question, may be bringing her swords to the altar. For the ship’s true mission is not peace but war—a war that threatens to rekindle an ancient power long thought lost. 

As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters, Thasha must seek unlikely allies—including a magic-cursed deckhand, a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors, and a singularly heroic rat—and enter a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf."

One for the all the sea dogs out there! The Red Wolf Conspiracy is a little slow off the blocks, but it's worth hanging in there because once Redick finds his stride he serves up a fast-paced nautical fantasy adventure that's full of entertainment and promise.

Pazel is our protagonist here, and he's a lot of fun to read, although he admittedly brings nothing new to the genre. An orphan with surprising skills and a pivotal role to've read it a hundred times or more. He's a hugely likeable character though, and I've got to admit I'm a firm believer in the old "if it 'aint broke" way of thinking. Yes it's old hat, but it works. None of the characters here break any new ground, but the setting is fresh and fascinating, and there are some absolutely beautiful touches sprinkled throughout. The concept and the sheer vastness of Chathrand is compelling, and the notion of "woken" animals was a real winner for me. I don't like to include spoilers of any shape or form if I can possibly avoid it, but I've got to say..the rats! I bloody loved the rats!

Redick is a writer who's new to me. He has a hint of Pullman about him, and there's even a tiny spark of a Lynch-like sharpness. Both aspects are clearly visible, but inconsistent. You can't help but notice them, but you shouldn't go into this one expecting another Locke Lamora.

I enjoyed this, it's a solid fantasy read, and is quite unique in that it's one that has something of a family feel to it. I'd happily both  read this along with my young son, and lend it to my Mum. And with a lot of current fantasy that's pretty impressively rare. Redick demonstrates that's it doesn't have to be all about the shock factor, and that was a breath of fresh air for me. This is probably the love it/hate it aspect of the novel. You could argue that many elements of the plot are really quite childish in some respects, and that isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. Whatever you think of the plot though, there's some wonderful world building in here that absolutely cannot be denied.

Things felt a little flat to me towards the end, there's a lot of grunt work being done to set up the second book in the series, and it went out with a bit of a damp fizzle rather than a bang. But on the whole, it's a well-written and entertaining novel that shows lot of potential for a genuinely fascinating series. And for me the family read aspect makes it a real winner.

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