Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review of The Red Knight

Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.

Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern's jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men - or worse, a company of mercenaries - against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.

It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.

The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he's determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it's just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can't deal with.

Only it's not just a job. It's going to be a war. . .

-from the book description

The Red Knight, by Miles Cameron

Characters: The Red Knight features a wide cast of characters, with each chapter giving us a different point of view. Our primary point of view is the Red Knight himself, a young mercenary commander. The Red Knight might be young, but he knows his business. I don’t put spoilers in my reviews, so I’ll just mention that there is more to the Red Knight than (of course) first meets the eye. Besides the Red Knight we have a rich cast of characters, including the novel’s primary antagonist. I enjoyed getting both the “good guy” AND “bad guy” point of views.

World building: This had to be one of my favorite elements of the novel. Cameron has taken Europe (circa 1450, I estimate) and tuned it to his own fantasy setting. You’ll recognize names and places from European history, some straight out of the history books, some given interesting twists. The book combines the author’s deep knowledge of history with a truly refreshing, well thought out overlay of magic and fantastic monsters (some you’ll recognize, some you won’t). It is a gritty, highly realistic setting.

Engagement/Willing suspension of disbelief: Cameron is a historian and a reenactor. Both come through in spades when it comes to engagement. Small details of everyday life create a rich, believable atmosphere. And Cameron certainly knows how to write a gripping combat scene. Knights in other fantasy novels wear the same armor, but in the Red Knight you really get to know what is means to be in a full suit of plate. It is obvious that the author has spent his fair share of time in full harness.

Writing/Mechanics: The Red Knight is a professionally written novel. Besides getting an exciting story, you are getting a well-written story. It is not all blood and guts, Cameron takes time to smell the roses. Love and hate, the nature of good and evil, the meaning of loyalty and friendship... Cameron writes them as well as he writes a deadly battle with a wyvern.

Impact: A terrific fantasy novel. It isn’t a YA fantasy, this is a tough, realistic telling of a bloody war in a  fantasy setting. It also isn’t a Dungeon’s and Dragons knock off - which is a great relief. It has the depth, complexity and realism of GRR Martin in a world where magic and monsters are more the norm. I can’t wait for more. 

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