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Thread: The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
October 30th, 2012, 09:55 AM #1
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- Dec 2005
- Ada, MI, USA
The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
I finished Red Knight by Miles Cameron and while I loved it quite a lot and will be in my top 25 of the year, I think that Anthony Ryan's Blood Song (which is still the number one debut of the year and also the best fantasy debut since Name of the Wind) is a stronger debut, while David Hair's Mage's Blood is another one which I may rate slightly higher, though i may rate this one higher...
Red Knight tries and mostly succeeds to combine three things:
- a very historical fiction approach to medieval fantasy as for example appearing in authors like Maurice Druon and Zoe Oldenbourg (I am pretty sure there are such from the UK/US but none come to mind, maybe Pillars of the Earth to some extent would qualify; one characteristic is that life is cheap, but things are expensive); this means the writing is very unsentimental, quite brutal on occasion and is much closer to historical fiction in many ways than it is to fantasy even of the "gritty" kind
- a magical system based on the power of the wild nature, green rather than dark so to speak and embodied in various creatures and people versus the power of the sun, light embodied in the Church and people; this system reminds one strongly of CS Friedman's Cold Fire while the memory chamber approach also reminds of KJ Parker's "rooms"
- a military component as most of the book is war; this gets a bit tiring at the end when slaughtering "boglins" by the thousands becomes tedious, but it has a lot of great moments where the combination of medieval weapons and tactics with modern such given by sorcery (eg aerial bombardment by wyverns, but much more) brings something new to the table; this part is done very well, only it is a bit too long in the end
The structure of the book is in short chunks from multiple POV's and it works mostly well with narrative flowing though I can easily see it leading to confusion in parts. There are a ton of impressive characters of all kinds, most notably the title hero, The (mysterious) Red Knight (about whom we find out in due time most everything about parentage and upbringing with the rest being implied), the real bad boy "Bad Tom" Lachlan, the two sorcerers Thorn and Harmodius, the abbess who hires the Red Knight to protect her important convent/fortress, Queen Desiderata, some local and foreign knights, a few daemons - these are powers of the wild and guardians of the outwallers, an escaped slave who becomes a member of the Sossag one of the "outwallers" indian like tribes and not least a wise and very powerful Dragon.
Where I have reservations is in balance and integration of these quite disparate elements, integration that does not fully work so the book occasionally is less than the sum of its parts, while as mentioned the military aspect becomes somewhat repetitive at the end; also as in most fantasies, the separation of the main hero and his love interest looks really artificial (but this is true to some extent in Blood Song and Mage's Blood, only LE Modesitt not shying away from married heroes with children...); the end of The Red Knight is actually superb as it goes beyond solving the main storyline and setting up the next book The Fell Sword (about which Miles told me he is on page 423 as of a few days ago), but also brings new main players into focus and has a "conversation" for the ages.
Overall, an excellent debut that I hope will find its audience as it combines a few things that usually stay separate in fiction, while I am convinced the technical aspects will only get better as the series progresses.
You can see excellent artwork with all characters on the author's page HERE
Last edited by suciul; October 30th, 2012 at 10:00 AM.
October 30th, 2012, 12:46 PM #2
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- Jul 2001
- Hobbit Towers, England
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Not reading suciul's post above (yet) as I'm still reading the book (arrived Monday), but thought I would just add that so far I'm very impressed with such a debut. Very strong medieval/historical element, interesting characters, nice plot developments - I'm really enjoying it.
Hope it continues!Mark
November 1st, 2012, 06:41 AM #3The structure of the book is in short chunks from multiple POV's and it works mostly well with narrative flowing though I can easily see it leading to confusion in parts. There are a ton of impressive characters of all kinds, most notably the title hero, The (mysterious) Red Knight (about whom we find out in due time most everything about parentage and upbringing with the rest being implied), the real bad boy "Bad Tom" Lachlan, the two sorcerers Thorn and Harmodius
Just took delivery of the hardcover by the way.
November 1st, 2012, 08:32 AM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2005
- Ada, MI, USA
There is one Sossag pictured at least (Ota Qwan)
November 1st, 2012, 08:23 PM #5
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- Dec 2007
The UK publisher, Gollancz, has a fairly generous excerpt up on their blog, of which I have been availing myself. Not sure what I think, to be honest, but there are definitely some interesting things going on in the first bit.
The way dialogue flows feels interesting, if that's not too geeky. Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence to a degree, a lot of writers writing secondary world fantasy in a "grimmer" headspace have a very colloquial dialogue style, specially among their military characters. Very stripped-down, very informal. I remember Glen Cook's Black Company talking this way too, among themselves. The Red Knight feels different in this regard. A lot of the characters seem to have a more consciously constructed way of speaking, not in a dorky "hail ye good traveller and well-met, sirra" kind of toxic story-killing way, but in a way that balances our conventions of dialogue now with constant nods back to the chivalric times Cameron is evoking larded all through the speech. I ... think I might be taught to like it. Except occasionally it's like the author forgets, and a line or two slips the stylistic reins, and it's really, really noticeable.
Not too sure how attached I'm going to get to the characters yet. The novel moves around a lot, so the excerpt material doesn't really let us settle in with any of them. Everyone seems nicely flawed and conflicted; there's definitely potential here, and I'm glad to hear from Hobbit and Suciul that it develops well. The book seems to build sexism into its world in the way that's the default assumption for most grimmer epic fantasies, and, while in Cameron's case I recognize that this may have a lot to do with a firmer historical impulse, it feels like something that's gone from being [theoretically] a way to explore injustice and present characters with severe challenges to just being kind of how these stories are expected to work, and that's somewhat disturbing. Plenty of room to broaden after page thirty, though. And I really like the moral ambiguity that's slammed right in our faces immediately in terms of the humanity versus Wild conflict, with attrocities committed on both sides from the word go.
Long way of saying that I'm not one-hundred percent convinced, and the personalities don't immediately click with me as people I want to follow around, but the excerpt's definitely intriguing and I'd cautiously say I want to read the whole thing. Be interested to hear any more thoughts others have. Both about the book itself and, maybe getting more meta, how it fits into the picture of fantasy at the moment.
November 3rd, 2012, 02:02 AM #6
So the story is about a troupe of mercenaries who take what is supposed to be an easier gig than the usual fighting protecting a nunnery from deadly creatures from the Wild that are picking off the nuns and farm folk, but this turns out to be part of something much bigger and war-like amid species, including skullduggery among the humans. So basically, it's a western, Seven Samaurai style (Magnificent Seven), and in the neighborhood of tales like The Keep and good old Beowulf. Actually clearly a nod to Beowulf in there and to St. George and the Dragon. The style from the excerpt is similar to Mary Gentle's Ash, also in the neighborhood. And there's battle action.