Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review: The Red Wolf Conspiracy [2009]

Local (Western Mass) author Robert V. S. Redick's debut novel, The Red Wolf Conspiracy, is a book that my David Eddings-loving teenage self would have thoroughly enjoyed. It has a big cast of characters, an expansive setting, and features sixteen-year old protagonists. One of my colleagues gave me an ARC of the book an eon ago, but as usual I didn't get around to reading it until I realized that there was an audio version (read by Michael Page). The benefit of this procrastinatory approach to reading things is that the sequel has come out in the meantime, and the third book's publication is imminent.

There are two great powers in the world of Alifros, the kingdoms of Arqual and the Mzithrin. Tensions between the two have been simmering since the end of official hostilities several decades ago, but all that will theoretically end with an upcoming treaty sealed by a marriage between an Arquali girl and a Mzithrin prince. The great ship Chathrand, a 600 year old sailing vessel of immense size, has been commissioned to take the unwilling treaty bride, Thasha Isiq, to neutral territory for the ceremony. Pazel Pathkendle is a tarboy from a conquered Arquali territory with a magical gift for languages who becomes her ally as they gradually discover that the ship's mission is a cover for a much more sinister plot centered around the mysterious Red Wolf artifact. The novel's vast cast of characters includes several "woken" animals, a race of Lilliputian beings, the tyrannical captain and his ship's crone, a sinister spymaster, Thasha's aging war hero father and duplicitous stepmother, etc., etc. There are almost too many characters, but the action is fast-paced and the world that Redick has created is fully realized.

Redick definitely violates the law of Do Not Create Complicated Fantasy Names That Will Make People Roll Their Eyes, and there are a few too many viewpoints and characters for an entirely smooth read, but I still ended up liking the book and will probably give the sequel a shot. 

Grade: B

Random Thoughts:

I like supporting local authors, so it's nice to find one that writes in a genre that I love. I do think it would work for that young adult reader who is looking for a fantasy epic (or a parent who is looking for fantasy that isn't also sexy for their budding enthusiast), so I am tagging this post as YA. I also think it might appeal to that group of fantasy readers (like me) that enjoys shipboard narratives like the Temeraire series. The concept of a gigantic, ancient ship is just pretty awesome.

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