Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Robert V.S. Redick - The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Book Review)

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"The Red Wolf Conspiracy" (Amazon: UK, USA)
by Robert V.S. Redick
Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Publisher:
Gollancz
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---Pazel Pathkendle is a tarboy, an apprentice sailor of a kind, but of course he was not born a sailor. When Ormali, his native city-state was Invaded (or Rescued, as the winners call it) by the empire of Arqual, he barely escaped slavery with indirect help of doctor Chadfallow. If there is a motive, other than perhaps love for his mother, why the mysterious doctor helps Pazel, guiding him from ship to ship, captain to captain...the boy cannot figure it out. Endowed with a gift/curse that his mother, a witch, cast upon him, he instantly learns any language he hears, but the gift takes a toll resulting in episodes during which he can not speak any comprehensible language at all.
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---Finally, Pazel's way leads him on board I.M.S. Chathrand – the last of the great ships of old built by shipbuilders and magicians that used masteries now lost forever. Chathrand is officially on a mission of peace, bringing to the Arqual's greatest enemy, the Mzithrin Pentarchy, an ambassador with his consort and his daughter, tomboyish Thasha. She is meant to be a "treaty bride", a token of peace. But that mission is not the only one that the Emperor has entrusted upon the ship and its passengers. Darker conspiracies, some official and some private, mark the voyage upon the magnificent ship. But even the mighty Emperor and his minions are not aware of all the plots and plans going on the ship...
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The Red Wolf Conspiracy is the first book of the planed trilogy titled The Chathrand Voyage. The first impression I got when I started to read the book was that Robert V.S. Redick sure does it by the numbers. We have our "farm boy" with a destiny and ability of some kind, as well as a beautiful and active maid between which love is destined to blossom. We also have several (I've counted at least three) wise mentors and, again no surprise here, one of them turns out to be less benevolent as we were led to believe at the beginning. Then we have our "magical artefact of great power" (i.e. Nilstone) and of course the threat that "the end of the world as we know it is near, if we don't…". So far so good I suppose. It's a recipe that was used for numerous times before. Let us just look at the work of David (and Liegh) Eddings. It's formulaic, true, and lately one does get the feeling that they believe their readers daft, but The Belgariad and The Redemption of Althalus are a decent enough read.
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So what makes The Red Wolf Conspiracy a book in its own right? For one thing, I find the world that Redick created simply beautiful. This is a world of ships, big and small, and creatures alike – from miniature ixchel to huge augrongs, the mysterious glowing childsnatching Flikkerman and the Muths, the cruel merefolks that just want to survive. The world's politics and history are intriguing too and some of the characters are flawed to perfection (for instance, captain Rose with his letter writing…)
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The world-building is undoubtedly Redick's forte, but unfortunately the plot is not so original. Teenagers saving the world spiel is seen all too often, but O.K., I mean, it's his first book, right?
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But then, this the book ends! Oh lord! "And then there were seven!" was everything I could think of. The ending was such a cliché that it was almost painful to read through. Seven "chosen ones" to stop the seemingly overpowering evil. Each bearing the mark and the burden. Yawn! Redick is intent on writing at least a trilogy set in this world, so please, somebody, make him stop writing such ... arghhhh!
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Truth be told, it was my intention to give this book three solid Fruitcakes, since it's for the better part a solid book true to its genre, but after reading the last chapter I even considered to give the book none. Well, it's been a couple of days since then and I've had some time to cool my tempers - so let us pronounce the judgment (pompous enough for you all?):
  • great worldbulding
  • decent storyline
  • a bit too formulaic
  • the ending is utter crap
...all of that takes the book right into the middle:
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Of course, if you imagine seven people wearing a scar that bears a perfect image of "a red wolf with one of his paws raised" and doing his thing in the petunias the ending becomes quite hilarious.
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~ BlindMan ~

3 Comments:

MadMax-imillian said...

You are right that the book goes by the numbers, but I still enjoyed it a lot...and even though the ending was not up to the rest of the book I wasn't as upset with it as you were. :)

James said...

Good review. I disagree that Redick is skilled at worldbuilding though; I thought his world was a confusing mishmash of different time-periods. It just never came alive for me.

Overall, an average book that did not at all live up to the hype.

daydream said...

I avoid reading books about teens destined to save the world, although you might consider what I am writing similar, but anyways I hate that. I just simply hate destiny and teens on a path. It's utter crap. Not that I hate the author, but the motif is cliche Number 1 on the Billboard 100 cliches.

 

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