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Cannonball Read 09/10 III

Discussion in 'BoM Blogs' started by Fabius Maximus, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. Fabius Maximus Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine

    Feb 18, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Book #3: The Red Wolf Conspiracy, by Robert V.S. Redick

    It seems to be something of an unwritten law that fantasy book series almost always have three installments. The Red Wolf Conspiracy is no exclusion. It's the first book in Robert V.S. Redick's series The Chathrand Voyage. Now I have to buy the two sequels, too. Why? Because Redick creates a compelling story with an intricate plot and believable characters both charismatic and loathsome. Also, he does not fall into the trap to pull a deus ex machina to rescue his protagonists out of dire situations, which is something very refreshing in the fantasy genre.

    The story revolves around the Chathrand, one giant of a ship. It has five masts and seven decks, and can carry up to 1600 persons (crew and passengers) and additional cargo. She is the last of her kind, and the secrets of her construction are lost in time. The ship belongs to a merchant family that loans it on occasion to the Emperor of Arqual, who rules one of the two sprawling and warring empires that dominate the world.

    The Red Wolf Conspiracy starts off while the Chathrand is outfitted for an important voyage. There is going to be a political marriage between the daughter of a retired Arquali admiral and ambassador, and a Mizthrini prince, to ensure peace between the empires. The Chathrand will transport the ambassador Eberzam Isiq and his daughter Tasha to a neutral country where the ceremony will be held.

    Of course, there is more to the voyage than meets the eye. The reader knows beforehand that the Great Ship will mysteriously vanish, as a report in the form of an official announcement is printed on the book's back and at it's beginning. As the plot progresses, it becomes clear very quickly that there is something fishy going on, and several characters of note are involved. There is the infamous Captain Rose, who surprisingly comes out of retirement to command the Ships of Ships one final time. There are the imperial spymaster and his cronies coming aboard in disguise. And the gnomish ixchel are secretly boarding the ship en masse. All the while, Pazel Pathkendle, a newly hired tarboy (deckhand) with a weird ability just wants to work on the Charthrand and live in relative peace, but gets involved in affairs way over his head.

    Redick succeeds in keeping the reader on his toes. While some characters are clearly the 'good' ones, several others are not what they appear at first, and some are described as quite ambivalent. The conspiracy's monstrosity comes out very slowly, as those who discover it first are the ones most hated among crew and passengers. The author also keeps changing his style. Most of the book is written in the standard third person view, though oddly detached, as if there is a narrator in the background who reads the book aloud. Several chapters are written as either letters from Captain Rose to his father or as entries in the hidden manual of the Great Ship's quartermaster. This way, Redick can easily skip several days in the voyage without creating too much of a rift within the story.

    It's also remarkable that Redick uses fantasy elements only sparsely. Magic is only hinted at, there are only two non-human species (the ixchel and another one) which only operate on the fringes of human society, and there exist 'awakened' animals that show self-awareness, human-like intelligence, and the ability to speak. All of these elements have a part to play in The Red Wolf Conspiracy, but never feel over-used.

    The first part of The Chathrand Voyage is a very enjoyable book that keeps you guessing until the end. If you like intelligent, fast-moving low-fantasy stories, The Red Wolf Conspiracy is definitely the book for you.
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