The Chathrand – The Great Ship, The Wind-Palace, His Supremacy’s First Fancy – is the last of her kind – built 600 years ago she dwarves all the ships around her. The secrets of her construction are long lost. She was the pride of the Empire. The natural choice for the great diplomatic voyage to seal the peace with the last of the Emperor’s last enemies.
700 souls boarded her. Her sadistic Captain Nilus Rose, the Emperor’s Ambassador and Thasha, the daughter he plans to marry off to seal the treaty, a spy master and six assassins, one hunderd imperial marines, Pazel the tarboy gifted and cursed by his mother’s spell and a small band of Ixchel. The Ixchel sneaked aboard and now hide below decks amongst the rats. Intent on their own mission.
But there is treachery afoot. Behind the plans for peace lies the shadow of war and the fear that a dead king might live again. And now the Chathrand, having survived countless battles and centuries of typhoons has gone missing.
This is her story.
Since starting to read more fantasy this year there have been a few novels that get good recommendations from sources I trust. The Red Wolf Conspiracy by debut author Robert V.S. Redick is one that falls into this category and has come to my attention now because of the release of the sequel, The Rats and the Ruling Sea. Whenever a series gets a new addition talk of the previous books comes up and I was pleased to hear what I did – enough to make sure that I had the first book read and ready for the sequel upon its release. Well, not quite, but almost! What I found in The Red Wolf Conspiracy was a book that gave me what I enjoy in fiction these days – interesting characters, a great setting and world building, and a story that has a depth to it that gives the reader much to think about.
The first thing I have to talk about is the setting, and specifically the Chathrand – look at the cover above and it will give you an idea of the sheer size of this thing. The Chathrand is a character in its own right and is the last of the Great Ships. The descriptions that Robert VS Redick uses when talking of the Chathrand are superb and bring some great visualisations, although he does not bog down the story with unnecessary passages, everything we read has a purpose and we learn about the ships along with the characters.
With the Chathrand used for a supposed voyage of peace between two empires – Mzithrin and Arqual – that have a long and bloodied history, we have many different characters and races on board for the journey. Among these is Captain Rose, the former captain chosen once again to run the ship, although to the disdain of many people due to his violent history. We also have Thasha, daughter of the Arqualian Emperor’s ambassador, who is due to marry into the Mzithrini to cement the peace everyone is hoping for. Perhaps the main character of the novel is a young tarboy by the name of Pazel Pathkendle, the son of a traitor and in possession of a unique gift that allows him to understand any language when it is spoken – very helpful on a ship where many are spoken.
Redick handles the characters with flair and allows the meetings and exchanges between them to show more than simple story progression. We get to find out more of the history of Alifros, what preconceptions and prejudices that certain characters and countries have, and also what motivates the characters. I know this is something that should be done in every good novel, but Redick manages to build characters that are relatable and enjoyable while never losing sight of the wider picture.
Some of the other things I found I enjoyed with The Red Wolf Conspiracy were the more typical fantasy elements. Magic is practiced and spells are imparted with great effort involved, while the hint at another world elsewhere is made clear when relating to one particular character. We also have many creatures, from the tiny Ixchel to the huge Augrong, that populate this world which Redick has created. We also have ‘woken’ animals, those that have gained sentience, and although this is interesting, it does raise some questions on how and why this happens. Still, the world of The Red Wolf Conspiracy is truly amazing and has much to admire.
I would say that picking up The Red Wolf Conspiracy has left me wanting much more of what Robert V.S. Redick has to offer. Luckily I can jump straight into The Rats and the Ruling Sea and continue to follow this great journey. Only problem I have now is the waiting until the third book is released – blast these fantasy writers and their multiple volume stories!!