I recently had recommended to me Robert Redick’s The Red Wolf Conspiracy, a fantasy epic which is almost exclusively set aboard the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathard, a 600 year old sailing ship of immerse proportions and age that sets out on a mission of mystery and intrigue with a huge crew and equally large and varied cast of characters.
The Red Wolf Conspiracy is an engaging and simply fun fantasy romp set on another world with a complex history of imperial warfare and contentious religious disputes as well as mages, magic, tiny creatures and “woken” animals who can think and talk. And at the heart of it all is the IMS Chathard, over six hundred years old and by far the largest ship in the empire of Arqual, and for that matter the world. The Red Wolf Conspiracy is far grittier and much more nautical than most fantasy tales I have read. I still wouldn’t quite call it nautical fiction, but it is close.
The good news for readers of nautical fiction is that Robert Redick gets it largely right when writing about ships sailing these other-worldy seas. The characters and language used aboard ship will be completely natural to readers of Georgian naval fiction. The IMS Chathard has all the rigging one might expect, – masts, yards, topsails, t’gallants, halyards, ratlines, buntlines and so on and everything seems to be in the right place. Aside from the occasional and very rare reference to hauling on “ropes” and a few other nit-picky sorts of things that caught my eye, there is very little to set a reader of nautical fiction’s teeth on edge or otherwise detract from the telling of the story.
And what a story it is. It is epic. It is sweeping. It is told from multiple points of view primarily from an omniscient vantage point but also using diaries, letters and newspaper accounts. The writing is crisp, vivid and and moves well.
All that being said, is this a story that readers of nautical fiction would appreciate? I am reminded of the quote from Lincoln whee he said, “If this is the sort of book you like, you will like this book.” It is definitely firmly planted in the fantasy genre and lovers of the genre should immediately take to it. If there is a single book that I would compare it to it would be Frank Herbert’s Dune (which is more science fiction than fantasy.) The books are obviously very different. Dune is set on a desert planet while Red Wolf takes place primarily at sea. Dune is more footnote laden and intricate, nevertheless, they both had the same tendancy to envelop me as a reader.
Not surprisingly The Red Wolf Conspiracy is relatively long in addition to being complicated, which is not necessarily a problem except that when I reached page 520 or thereabout, there was the following message:
HERE ENDS THE The Red Wold Conspiracy,
BOOK ONE OF THE CHATHRAND VOYAGES.
THE STORY IS CONTINUED IN
The Rats and the Ruling Sea
The book just ended, except that it didn’t end. The plot was unresolved. The heroine was still in peril. The crisis continued unabated. Apparently, the story continues in the next book. The Red Wolf Conspiracy, appears to be only about third of the story.
The publisher has changed the title of the next book, aware that many readers would not buy a book with the words “rats” as the first word of the title. The second book is now available titled, The Ruling Sea.
Would I recommend The Red Wolf Conspiracy to readers of nautical fiction? Yes, I would, with the caveat that it is still far more fantasy than nautical fiction. They should also be warned that the The Red Wolf Conspiracy appears to be one third of a very long single novel, the third portion of which has not yet been published. A fun read all the same.