Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
A fantastic and fascinating worldFeb. 16 2009
The Name of the Clam
- Published on Amazon.com
Empires scheme and brace for war in this beautifully imagined, intricately plotted tale. Taking place aboard an enormous ship sailing to a foreign capital on a peace mission, The Red Wolf Conspiracy focuses on two young protagonists, from widely divergent backgrounds, who unearth a scheme that endangers their world. Also aboard are a mad ship's captain, a race of tiny, ferocious warriors, sentient animals, wizards, and others whose agendas are not at all what they seem.
A great and entertaining read, this book's tremendous strength is in the comprehensive imagination of a world in all its fascinating detail. Redick gives us a glimpse of the workings of a vast, ravenous Empire reflected in the lives of characters ranging from peace emissary to political operative to near-slave. It reminded me of the experience of reading Dune for the first time, with throwaway details that hint tangentially at complex, fully-imagined institutions. Cumulatively, they yield a sense of a vast society that is at once fantastic and utterly plausible.
This story is the first installment in the trilogy The Chathrand Voyage, and my one quibble with Book 1 was that it will make for a rather infuriating wait for Book 2. You get the impression this trilogy is elaborately designed, with many more twists and reveals on the way. - think "Lord of the Rings," and imagine how tough it must have been to await the release of those installments.
I highly recommend this engrossing book and I'm eagerly awaiting the next one!
71 of 89 people found the following review helpful
Something new and different in modern fantasyAug. 1 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Robert V.S. Redick's The Red Wolf Conspiracy is a book that takes the realistic movement in modern fantasy as far as possible in an ostensibly literary direction. Despite the setting, the story reads more like a contender for a Booker Prize than a Nebula Award. A displaced migrant worker struggles against an oppressive, misogynistic society. Set against the backdrop of the horrors of war, he bands together with other outcast minorities to forge a new family (in a triumph of the human spirit, naturally).
The setting is overtly - ostentatiously - fantastical. Tribes of tiny humanoids (Ixchel) scuttle around. Sorcerors and mad doctors practice their mystical arts in tandem. The overarching plot (when finally revealed) is similarly decadent. Two ancient empires, colliding in battle. Insane god-kings, long held captive in magical bonds. Ancient evils battle heroes from other worlds, etc. etc. Blah blah blah.
All of that, no matter how grandiose, is incidental. The real story of The Red Wolf Conspiracy is merely that of Pavel, a little boy on a big boat. Of no actual importance, his one SuperSecretHighFantasy ability is a magical ability to understand languages. He doesn't fight. He's not a wizard. He's just a cabin boy with bad headaches and an ear for dialects. He is, quite possibly, the least spectacular fantasy hero of all time. (Redick strikes me as the guy who played the Bard in his D&D group).
The earth-shattering events that surround Pavel are largely ignored by him - he's too busy trying to find a place for himself, in his own tiny world. Pavel is a real person, with real problems. He's got a good heart, so he's eventually pulled along in the meta-plot for understandable, altruistic reasons, but his primary motivation is often just to keep his head down.
The larger context of The Red Wolf Conspiracy is also completely independent of the book's fantastic surroundings. Although two mighty fantasy empires stand poised at the brink of war, Redick is less concerned with ancient war-related-prophecies than he is with describing the horrors of being a displaced migrant. Multi-dimensional wizards are facing off in battle, but the book is more interested in detailing the depressing, degrading status system. Or the misogynistic marriage practices. Or the unfortunate realities of slave trade economics. Ancient relics of unspeakable power someone else's problem - the heroes of The Red Wolf Conspiracy are more interested in getting out of their indentured labor contracts.
As a result, The Red Wolf Conspiracy is a very modern, very... almost overly... mature piece of fantasy. Instead of swords and sorcery, the reader gets etiquette and policy. There's no question that this makes the book a slow and often cumbersome read. The author's intent - and talent - seems to lie in complex world-building, as seen through the eyes of the world's most insignificant character. The occasional burst of action (and conventional 'plot') feels forced, and often drags both the reader and the characters away from the surprisingly interesting minutiae. The resulting book is not always an entertaining read, but definitely an absorbing one.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Wow! Something different for a change!May 4 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the best fantasy novel I've read in years! The world Mr. Redick has created is rich and fully realized. It's also unusual--a real departure from the typical fantasy fare. As a reader who knows absolutely nothing about ships and sailing, Mr. Redick's rich prose allowed me to immerse myself in his world with total abandon. And isn't that a big reason we fans read scifi and fantasy?
The plot is intriguing with lots of twists and turns, and the writer keeps it moving along at a quick clip. It's one of those books that make us stay awake all night long reading, because we just can't wait to find out what happens next.
A lot of thinking has been going on here, and that applies to his characterization as well. The characters are all fully human in their personalities, motivations, strengths and weaknesses. And as the mother of two daughters and the grandmother of two little girls, I was particularly gratified to see the strong female characters Mr. Redick has created.
In a nutshell, it all makes sense. And it serves up a heaping spoonful of tension and mystery as well. I can't wait for the second one!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not Naval Fiction, but goodNov. 22 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
I picked up The Red Wolf Conspiracy because it has a picture of a full-rigged ship on the cover. As a passionate, but certainly not exclusive, reader of age-of-fighting-sail historic naval fiction, I am intrigued by the possibility of successful HNF/SF hybrids. There are some quite good cross-overs between HNF and mystery fiction, as well as espionage and even romance, but I'm still looking for the perfect mix of HNF with the genre I read avidly in my long-ago youth, Science Fiction. Taylor Anderson has produced an excellent SF/Naval Fiction series, but it is based on WWII destroyers - fun, but not my cup of sunshine. Tom Grundner did a creditable hybrid with the first book of his Sir Sydney Smith series, but then wrote out the SF elements when he republished. (I haven't read Naomi Novik yet, but I have high hopes there. So little time...) The action of TRWC does take place on a sailing ship but, despite the occasional "stunsails aloft," it is not really naval fiction. It is, however, a damn fine novel and I was forced to put my quirky expectations aside and enjoy it on its own merits.
The Chathrand is by far the largest ship in the world, the last survivor of a distant era, and she is being prepared for a mysterious voyage. She carries not only a variety of nationalities and classes, but a mixture of sentient species. The action centers around two young people, Pazel Pathkendle, a tarboy (the lowest of the ship's crew) and Thasha Isiq, the daughter of the ship's most exalted passenger. Everyone aboard has secrets and few people are what they seem.
Secrets are revealed as the characters pursue their competing ambitions and the reader is forced to confront questions about the nature of good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, life and death.
The world of Alifros is richly drawn and the action is compelling. As in the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy, young people struggle to be more than pawns in great schemes to which they are not privy. Like Pullman, Redick creates a sense of constant foreboding amid awareness of poorly understood menaces. Redick's readers, like Pullman's, cannot avoid that most imponderable of questions, "How can grown-ups be so stupid?" This first of four volumes, despite all the action, is really only exposition. Over the first three months of the Chathrand's voyage we achieve a better understanding of the characters and the issues that drive them, but the story doesn't come close to a resolution. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Nautical Fantasy (Spoiler Free Review)April 6 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like day old sushi, this book didn't agree with me.
Story A spirited and reluctant noblewoman is shipped overseas to marry a powerful lord in a rival kingdom, but treachery is afoot! An evil wizard hatches a fiendish plot and an unlikely band of heroes must thwart his evil scheme.
World Robert V.S. Redick has created a unique fantasy world with different races, mysterious creatures, and magic. At first, the fantastic elements are strange anecdotes like, "The Makdors sure are sahzique," then everyone laughs but you. But as the book progresses the world gains depth and becomes rooted in its fiction. The world is grounded in reality. Don't expect epic dragon battles or anything like that, instead, you'll find more protocol between different races: "This is how you deal with Ixchel." Everything in the book is on a fairly small scale and most of the book takes place on a ship at sea.
One complaint, quite a few of the character names and races sound like they were created in a random name generator: Eberzam Isiq, Mzithrin, Diadrelu, Syrarys...
Writing Style This reads quite a bit like literature. It's pretty elegant. However the pacing is a bit off... the book doesn't really get going until page 120 and it ends abruptly. The strongest part of the book is watching the conspiracy unfold between the major characters.
Characters This is definitely not an epic band of heroes. Instead, it's more like an unlikely band of misfits. The main character is Pazel, a cabin boy who can speak many languages and often has magical Tourette's Syndrome. Aside from getting captured and thrown down wells, that seems to be the extent of his powers. He's alot like C3P0 from Star Wars, now that I think about it. The heroine is Thasha, the reluctant and feisty noblewoman. There's also a talking rat and a band of warriors that are the size of action figures. This maybe a turn off for some, but if you like the misfit style characters, you won't mind them at all.
Action There is some action throughout the book and it's fairly mild.
Maturity With family friendly characters, some swashbuckling action, mild language, and no sex, it's good for anyone who's mature enough to read a complex caper.
Overall Parts of the book were rough, but watching the caper unfold in the middle of the book was very interesting. If you want to read about a conspiracy with misfit fantasy characters, you can really enjoy this book. If you want a swashbuckling tale of epic action, this probably won't do it for you.