What do you get when one of the fantasy genres literary mainstays over the past three decades recommends a book and suggests that he hasn’t read anything so “enthralling” since “when [he] first read Phillip Pullman”?
You get the Red Wolf Conspiracy, which is pretty much like Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy; a children’s story written for adults.
Which is not to say that I didn’t like Robert V.S. Redick’s debut novel, but that you can see when reading this book that the plot could also do as a children’s novel, if written properly.
Redick had me from the beginning though, if you take the time to look at the front cover. There are three ships; two normal sized ships, and then the Chathrand, this giant of a ship – 600 years old apparently – which is 10 times the size of the two normal sized ships.
Get it? It’s a big ship!
I like ship novels. Ever since I read the Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb I’ve loved reading about sea voyages in fantasy stories. They always take on such an atmosphere, not one I’d want to encounter as I’m afraid of drowning, but one that I enjoy reading. Don’t know if I’d ever attach myself to the Hornblower series, as there won’t be any gigantic creatures or magical storms.
And Redick knows how to write ships. Or at least, he’s bluffed me so well I think he does. Seriously? What would I know? I live in the suburbs of Melbourne in 2010. Not like I’ve ever been on a tall ship.
The story is fascinating in that it gives intelligence to all sorts of animals, the pictsies/pixies/Nac Mac Feegle (depending on who you read) are here, and children once again save the day, but not in that infuriating Wesley Crusher method by knowing everything and solving everything, but in that naïve accidental “our children are the future” sort of way.
The villains are villainous, but are sometimes friendly. That was a brilliant move, I think, by Redick, to make some of his characters still villainous but not as villainous as some of the other villains. Multiple use of the word ‘villain’, right? Appropriately so, as there are a lot of them. They seem to outnumber the good guys 10 to 1. Maybe that’s the way it should be too.
But this book was a thrashing good read, no doubt about it. Being able to pick some of the conclusions was fine by me, even if that does serve as a hint that to others they would be blindingly obvious. The characters were fascinating, and I really cared for some of them, even after only very short appearances. I’m a sucker for a hinted-at-romance, but I do think Redick captures something of the essence of fantasy and ship writing, and turns it to his own advantage.
You’ll like this book if you liked Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders or Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora and or Paul Kearney’s Monarchies of God series.
Review by Joshua S Hill
1 positive reader review(s) for The Red Wolf Conspiracy
Tom from Ohio
Fast paced and exciting. Kind of like an adult version of Golden Compass.
9.3/10 from 2 reviews