I never heard of the term maritime fantasy before, until I met this book and fell in love with it. The Red Wolf Conspiracy was the first major book by Robert V.S Redick, and it’s been a long time since I read a fantasy book that was literally so fantastic.
The Chathrand is the pride of the Empire of Arqual, a ship larger than any other, the last of her kind, the last to be able to cross the Ruling Sea. She is the centerpiece in the story that’s set all aboard her, as she travels to bring Thasha Isiq to the Mzithrini Kingdom, to marry a prince and bring a lasting peace between the two countries. Or maybe that isn’t the mission after all? There is a conspiracy aboard, led by the sinister captain Nilus Rose and the Empire’s spy master Sandor Ott. Swept up in the middle is our male protagonist, Pazel Pathkendle, a 16-year old tarboy who is from Ormael, which pretty much makes him a slave and invites contempt from the Arquali.
This book is full of imaginative characters, names and races. You will meet talking rats, a race of tiny people called ixchel, mer-maids, a powerful mage in the shape of a black mink, a mysterious cat, old ladies from a scary school for girls, a translucent race of slavers called Flikkermen, and so on and so forth.
There’s magic afoot and there’s a giant showdown, and it’s just all so much fun. There’s a dash of steampunk, as the Empire of Arqual feels very Victorian somehow, Great Britain at the height of Imperialism, just more ruthless. The story can be confusing at times as there are a million characters and locations to remember, but I for my part enjoyed it immensely.
Looking forward to the next book! My rating for this one: (4.5 / 5)