- Date published: 26th January 2010
- Publisher: Del Rey (Random House Books)
- Format: Paperback, 526 pages
- Series: The Chathrand Voyages, Book 1
- ISBN 13: 9780345508843 ISBN10: 034550884X
- Categories: Fantasy
- Goodreads / The Book Depository / Booktopia / Bookworld
- Source: provided for review by the publisher
Six hundred years old, the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is a massive floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the Mzithrin Empire. But Thasha, the young noblewoman in question, may be bringing her swords to the altar.
For the ship’s true mission is not peace but war—a war that threatens to rekindle an ancient power long thought lost. As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters, Thasha must seek unlikely allies—including a magic-cursed deckhand, a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors, and a singularly heroic rat—and enter a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.
There’s nothing new in The Red Wolf Conspiracy: you’ve seen characters like this before, you’ve seen a plot like this before, and you’ve definitely read pirate books like this before. But what you haven’t read, and what you rarely encounter, are other worlds that are created as masterfully, characters that warm your heart, and compel you to cheer and shed tears at various points in the novel. You haven’t read a book like this, and lucky for you, there’s more where it came from.
The characters are archetypal in every sense – the outcast hero, his faithful best friend, a stubborn, fiery heroine. These are our three young protagonists, thrown together on a voyage of the last Great Ship, Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand, into enemy treaty to precipitate peace between two oft-warring nations. The price: the marriage of our heroine to a foreign prince. Surrounding them are giants, tiny people, assassins, doctors, merchants and mages, each with their own agendas, motivations and ambitions, but largely stereotypical in their scope. The down-side is that one is rarely surprised while reading this 500+ novel: no betrayal is shocking, no revelation is too evil, and everyone sticks to their pre-determined roles with ease. But that’s not to say the book isn’t enjoyable – in fact, it’s predictability means you have to pay extra attention to the characters, what they see and do and touch, because it all plays a part in the greater narrative.
The plot of The Red Wolf Conspiracy is engaging and thrilling – who doesn’t love a ripping good yarn set primarily on a ship? In fact, the grandest ship still in existence. There are thrills and spills, and with Pazel Pathkindle, the magic-cursed deck hand, in tow, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, which is hilarious as well as exciting. I thought the ship and its surrounding easy to imagine, especially the docksides and wharves, and various areas of the ship itself. The author has brought his world to life admirably, each race he describes has a rich history, social structure and religious background. Although the people of the Mzithrin Empire remain largely unknown, the other cultures in the book, all conquered at some point by Arqual, are fleshed out and dimensional.
The one detrimental element of the book is the author’s inexplicable decision to sometimes include the most tedious details of his character’s lives, and sometimes exclude their most dangerous adventures, only informing readers of them through mundane conversations. While at first it wasn’t so bad, it became jarring and disappointing when it became a common place. The book, being quite long, probably benefits from this in terms of its length, but I think my reading experience definitely suffered.
A wonderful sea-faring adventure, The Red Wolf Conspiracy combines the usual elements of epic fantasy into fun, exciting read. It’s a book that will be enjoyed by fans of Scott Lynch and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and I’m glad that Del Ray gave me the whole series to read, because I don’t think I can stay away!