Publicists often use comparisons to well-known authors to convince readers to
pick up a novel by an unknown writer. In the case of The Red Wolf Conspiracy,
this tactic does the author a disservice. Robert Redick's writing is so good and
original that neither of the comparisons listed in the book's description do it
justice. If you're expecting another Game of Thrones or Golden Compass,
you'll be disappointed, as The Red Wolf Conspiracy resembles neither. If
you're looking for a simply great fantasy read, though, this is your book.
The Red Wolf Conspiracy falls neatly into the "high fantasy" genre. Redick immerses the reader in themes and archetypical characters many will recognize from other novels in the category (good vs. evil; the young protagonist with a mysterious skill and/or past; the malevolent Dark Lord who wants to take over the world; etc.) Redick, though, puts a unique spin on this tried and true format, turning the reader's expectations upside down and creating a story that engages the imagination. By and large, it's completely unpredictable. It's also very complicated; there's so much going on that the plot defies description.
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.
The one criticism that could be leveled against the novel has to do with its overall pacing. The first hundred pages or so are devoted to acclimatizing readers to the world Redick imagines for his characters. As such, it's very well-written and detailed, but may bore readers more interested in an action-adventure novel. The last hundred pages rush by in a blur. While very exciting, these final pages are less convincing and not as well-written as prior chapters. As a result, readers who've been enjoying the detailed writing may feel a bit of a let-down at its end.
The Red Wolf Conspiracy is the first book in a planned series. While it ends at a natural break point, most plot lines remain unresolved. In fact, readers will discover they've only scratched the surface of Redick's complex world; multiple layers await discovery in the remaining volumes in this epic series. It's a very promising debut by a talented author, one which will definitely leave fantasy fans eagerly anticipating the next installment.
Photo: Nelson's flagship Victory which, like The Chathrand, has seven decks plus a hold.
Originally planned as a trilogy, the Chathrand Voyage has been expanded to four books but the author assures readers that "the tale will end decisively with Book IV"
*Interestingly, the term tall ship is modern, and was not generally used in the era when such vessels ruled the waves. Some think that the popularity of the term stems from John Masefield's 1900 poem "Sea Fever"
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...
This review was originally published in May 2009, and has been updated for the January 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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