Already a publishing sensation in England, The Red Wolf Conspiracy marks the debut of a remarkably gifted young writer. Robert V. S. Redick has been compared to Philip Pullman, George R. R. Martin, and China Miéville, among others, and like them he is a spellbinding storyteller, unafraid to sail his imagination into uncharted waters. With The Red Wolf Conspiracy he launches the first book of a trilogy destined to take its place among the classics of epic fantasy.
The Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is the last of her kind. Six hundred years old, the secrets of her construction long forgotten, the massive vessel dwarfs every other sailing craft in the world. It is a palace with sails, a 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 secretive Mzithrin Empire. But the young woman in question - Thasha, the daughter of the Arquali ambassador - has no intention of going meekly to the altar. For the ship's true mission is not peace but war - a war that threatens to unleash an ancient, all-consuming evil.
As the dark conspiracy at the heart of the voyage unfurls, Pazel Pathkendle, a lowly tarboy with an uncanny gift, will find himself in an unlikely alliance with Thasha and her protectors: Hercól, a valet who is more than he appears; Dri, the queen of a race of tiny stowaways who have their own plans for the great ship; and Ramachni, a powerful sorcerer from another world. Arrayed against them are the Chathrand's brutal captain, Nilus Rose; the Emperor's spymaster and chief assassin, Sandor Ott; and the enigmatic Dr. Chadfallow, a longtime friend to Pazel's family whose kind words may hide a vicious betrayal.
As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters to complete its mission, Pazel, Thasha, and their allies - including a singularly heroic rat - must also navigate a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.
1 Vaqrin (first day of summer) 941
It began, as every disaster in his life began, with a calm. The harbor and the village slept. The wind that had roared all night lay quelled by the headland; the bosun grew too sleepy to shout. But forty feet up the ratlines, Pazel Pathkendle had never been more awake.
He was freezing, to start with - a rogue wave had struck the bow at dusk, soaking eight boys and washing the ships dog into the hold, where it still yipped for rescue - but it wasnt the cold that worried him. It was the storm cloud. It had leaped the coastal ridge in one bound, on high winds he couldnt feel. The ship had no reason to fear it, but Pazel did. People were trying to kill him, and the only thing stopping them was the moon, that blessed bonfire moon, etching his shadow like a coal drawing on the deck of the Eniel.
One more mile, he thought. Then it can pour for all I care.
While the calm held, the Eniel ran quiet as a dream: her ...
What really sets this novel above the norm, though, is the quality of Redick's writing. Like most fantasy novels, this book contains a huge number of characters. Amazingly, nearly all of them are three-dimensional. Even characters with "bit parts" are fully-developed. There may be an occasional stereotype here and there, but they're rare. It's a remarkable feat considering the large cast. He also does a marvelous job of portraying the swashbuckling nature of the story. His descriptions of life on the sea and of the tall sailing ships seem dead on, and his action sequences frequently leave the reader breathless.
The Red Wolf Conspiracy is geared toward a very broad audience. The book has no sexual content and the violence depicted isn't extreme, making it appropriate fare for young adults. More mature readers will appreciate its intricate plot, richly imagined world and high-quality narrative. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (933 words).
A Beginner's Guide to Tall Ships
The Red Wolf Conspiracy takes place almost entirely aboard an immense sailing ship (aka "tall ship") with seven decks and five sails, similar, albeit perhaps on a grander scale, to those one might envision in use during the 18th century. Although the book is set in a fantasy world, Redick references familiar ship types and crew positions throughout the novel.
A tall ship* is a large traditionally rigged sailing vessel. Tall ships are defined by their rigging, their masts and, in particular, by their sails. Some of the more common ship types are:
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