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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    January 2012 Fantasy BotM: The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert VS Redick

    This book was published in 2008.



    I reviewed it for SFFWorld and said the following:

    Argh.

    Or should that be ‘Arrrgh’?

    For The Red Wolf Conspiracy is an enthusiastic novel that combines tales of pirates with legends of imprisoned Lovecraftian gods, hidden treasure and general skulduggery. Part Master and Commander, part On Stranger Tides, this fantasy debut from a relatively new author has much to be admired.

    From the start, there is quite a lot going on in this book. Most of the book takes place on or around the good ship I.M.S. Chathrand, a supertanker of a sailing ship. Seven decks deep, with a crew of hundreds, it is sent by the Emperor of Arqual on a diplomatic mission from her home port of Etherhorde to the recently-defeated Mzithrin race.

    Aboard the ship are many characters whom you may recognise from the genre. This is not the cynical hard-bitten weariness of Scott Lynch’s pirate tales, but characters a little closer to the traditional view. The hero is Pazel Pathkindle, a young boy apprentice of apparently lowly status (though later found to be a captured refugee from the recent war) with a secret ability, who with his faithful friend Neeps, and Thasha, a feisty young heroine and the daughter of the Emperor’s diplomat, form the core of the account. To add to this, there is a Yoda-like father figure, Ramachni, and his faithful trainee.

    The bad guys also stray little from the traditional. Spymasters and villains are hidden amongst the crew and are subverting events to their will. The ship’s captain, Nilus Rose, is for want of a better word, insane. Political intrigue also permeates the book as the diplomatic mission the Chathrand sails on is not what it first appears to be.

    Much of this may be familiar. Some characters may be a little too predictable for some. However, I found that although the elements may not be new, the world building and characterisation is pleasantly imaginative. There are lots of characters here that resonate. The evil yet melancholic slave-trader Flikkermen, who strangely glow, releasing energy they can no longer contain, the mermaid-like sea-murths who drag divers to their deaths, the whole idea of a sailing (or pirate) society works here.

    Of particular likeability to me were the ixchel, the little people, who often stow away on the ships of this world. Reminiscent to me of The Borrowers or the Nomes from Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad series, their efforts on board the Chathrand are filled with danger and peril. Diadrelu, their leader, is a ruler with compassion and vision, on a mission to save her tribe, and a difficult one which has consequences for all involved.

    There are some interesting concepts too. The idea that animals can be ‘woken’ to a higher state of consciousness and exist as sacred beings (or as some would have it, souls cursed by the Gods) is an intriguing one. Particularly engaging here is the woken rat, Felthrup Stargraven, whose efforts, despite all the odds, make him a key protagonist in the tale and one which no doubt can/will be developed later.

    If I had to pick fault, I think that such a broad range of characters and such an energetic set of actions at times dilutes the cumulative impact of the events in the novel. There is a lot of plot plate-spinning going on as these characters intertwine and disperse from each other during the length of the book.

    This is ambitious. And at the conclusion, this juggling of disparate elements is almost managed. However for me, the ending did not quite manage to live up to my expectations. There are a few too many convenient coincidences in places, particularly towards the end of the book. The resolution of the novel – bad guys defeated, scene set for Book Two (The Rats and the Ruling Sea) – is however rather inelegant with (after a lengthy build-up) plot resolutions coming quick and fast in a matter of about twenty pages. One plot-solution falls on top of another, at times seemingly too easily and too quickly for it to be realistically logical. The last thirty or so pages that occur after this, in a lengthy coda, seem a little deflating after the book’s earlier energy.

    Nevertheless, this ambitious book shows a great deal of promise from a fairly new Fantasy author whose reputation I think will develop further as this series continues. Though at the end its ambitions are curtailed a little by its limitations, its clear narrative style and engaging characterisation and narrative should appeal to fans of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Series. This one did not quite hold the page-turning potential I anticipated at the end, though it is very enjoyable and thus recommended. In summary, this one deserves to do well.
    Discuss!

    Mark
    Last edited by Hobbit; December 31st, 2011 at 05:39 PM.
    Mark

  2. #2
    Rogue Warrior
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    I remember when this came out, I told myself, that aint for me. But wound up getting this, and I love it, the story, the imagination, even the talking animals is just cool.
    I have the third book ordered from B&N.

  3. #3
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    I picked this up yesterday thinking I might get in with the BOTM group this month. I'm a slow reader and of those books I read in 2011, the greater part were re-reads or quick page turners. I've picked up a dozen books or more, only to put them down after twenty or thirty pages or so. Most were excellent and I feel bad that I just couldn't get into them because, while I did like them, they just weren't holding my interest at the time. Not what I was looking for, you could say.

    But within five pages I was hooked. I'm nearing page 100 and can't put it down! Can't wait to see how it turns out!!

  4. #4
    Rogue Warrior
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    Thats cool, Redmage, I'm really glad I gave this series a try. Makes me wonder how many books I misjudge.

  5. #5
    Rogue Warrior
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    C'mon people, Where's the Chathrand Voyage fans??

  6. #6
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I think Werthead and suciul are big fans, but they don't often make appearances in our book club discussions.

  7. #7
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I'm behind on my book club reading right now, so working my way through Flynn for the other one. I'll be along here in about a week.

    But since you like it so much, Kazz, how about you get us started by posting something a little meatier than the simple fact that you like it. What did you like? Why did it work for you? Did anything not work? Is the author doing anything new and interesting with the genre or just doing the same old things really well? Is there something thematic going on below the surface?

    Even if more fans show up, it won't be much of a discussion if we all just post whether we liked it or not.

  8. #8
    I enjoyed this book, but I've found it to be the weakest of the series so far. I think mostly it was because I didn't get along with a few of the characters at first, but they grew on me by the end of the first and by the end of the latest book I've really grown fond of them. I've found this particularly with the main characters, Pazel, Thasha, and Neeps. I got along right away with Rose, which is odd given that he is supposed to be one of the stories antagonists. Felthrup is one that I never really grew to like, and for me the ixchel never became interesting. The side characters were ultimately more interesting for me at first, but as I said, I did become more invested in the main characters as the plot developed.

    I think the story is well written and the plot moves along at a good pace with some twists along the way, but I found the ending to be somewhat underwhelming. There was a lot of build up and then everything just kind of happens. It's hard to really phrase without giving away too much- I'm sure someone can explain it better though. It felt like things were really just being set up for something much bigger, which I guess they were, but somehow that very fact took away from the book a bit for me.

    Overall, like I said, the weakest in the series so far, but still enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to the fourth (and final?) book that I think is going to be published next year.

  9. #9
    I've read the first three books of the series and have Night of the Swarm on order. This series reminded me of an adult version of Golden Compass. I would recommend the series and I had heard somewhere that book four might not be the end of the series.

    I think I liked it more than Mark, judging by his review, but I felt his synopsis was accurate.

  10. #10
    Riyria Revelations Author sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Nice choice - I've wanted to read this book for quite some time as it's been on my radar that I bump ino a lot as a cross-sell. Thanks for giving me an excuse to finally pick it up.

  11. #11
    Rogue Warrior
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael View Post
    I'm behind on my book club reading right now, so working my way through Flynn for the other one. I'll be along here in about a week.

    But since you like it so much, Kazz, how about you get us started by posting something a little meatier than the simple fact that you like it. What did you like? Why did it work for you? Did anything not work? Is the author doing anything new and interesting with the genre or just doing the same old things really well? Is there something thematic going on below the surface?

    Even if more fans show up, it won't be much of a discussion if we all just post whether we liked it or not.
    Its been a few months since I finished Ruling Sea, but it seems like I liked all the characters, the plot is done really well, I didnt think I could stay with this the whole time, ...the main story being on a ship, but for me thats just it...the suspension of disbelief just works really well for me on this one.

    I need to skim over a copy and refresh a little to say more.

  12. #12
    It never entered my mind algernoninc's Avatar
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    I've read this awhile ago, but Hobbit did a good job refreshing my memory.
    The main appeal for me was not in the realism of the story, I agree it felt contrived in some plot twists. I loved it because it has proved that there is still a market for traditional fantasy epics, with a clearer separation between the forces of good and evil and a focus on adventure, going on a quest with a fellowship of sorts, discovering extraordinary landscapes and maybe falling in love with a perky princess along the way. I think Mr. Sullivan with the Riyria Revelations and Durham with Acacia have also explored these realms of classic fantasy with a darker streak without going out of their way to shock the reader with excessive gore, bad language or explicit sexuality.

    I've read the next two books and I'm looking forward to the last, so I would recommend the whole series even if this discussion should focus only on the first volume.

  13. #13
    Rogue Warrior
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    Whoohoo! My copy of River of Shadows came in, just got the email reminder from B&N.

  14. #14
    Riyria Revelations Author sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by algernoninc View Post
    I've read this awhile ago, but Hobbit did a good job refreshing my memory.
    The main appeal for me was not in the realism of the story, I agree it felt contrived in some plot twists. I loved it because it has proved that there is still a market for traditional fantasy epics, with a clearer separation between the forces of good and evil and a focus on adventure, going on a quest with a fellowship of sorts, discovering extraordinary landscapes and maybe falling in love with a perky princess along the way. I think Mr. Sullivan with the Riyria Revelations and Durham with Acacia have also explored these realms of classic fantasy with a darker streak without going out of their way to shock the reader with excessive gore, bad language or explicit sexuality.

    I've read the next two books and I'm looking forward to the last, so I would recommend the whole series even if this discussion should focus only on the first volume.
    Thanks for the mention...I have a hard time finding books in that vein nice to know this is. Gonna pick up Aracia too.

  15. #15
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I'm nearing the end of this one (hope to finish tonight), and I'm of two minds about it. I like the world, the races, the overall idea of the plot. I think all of that is quite imaginative and compelling. On the other side of the coin, I think all of the characters are stock, dull, seen-them-at-least-a-few-times-before cardboard cutouts. There's not a lot of depth to any of them. They're pretty much all one skill, one personality trait kinds of characters.

    There was a stretch about halfway through when it seemed like the book was going to turn into a whodunnit aboard the ship, and it got really interesting. That angle was quickly quashed when Pavel was thrown off the ship. Neeps and Thetla(?) apparently continued to look into all that stuff, but it was recapped for me in about two sentences later. I actually wished I was reading that book instead of Pavel and the Flikkermen.

    All in all, though, it's a quick, easy read. It's maritime, which always gets points with me. The scenario and world are interesting. I'll try to come back with more thoughts when I finish.

    Question for those who have read more books: As the series goes on, does it stay pretty one-dimensional as far as characters, or do things flesh out?

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