This is a review of “The Red Knight” by Miles Cameron.
Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern’s jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men – or worse, a company of mercenaries – against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder. The Red Knight has is determined to turn a profit, so when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it’s just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can’t deal with. Only it’s not just a job. It’s going to be a war…
The world was simple and easy to get a grasp on. It was well built up with perhaps a bit too obvious nods to medieval France and England and Spain. The fact that the story takes place in medieval times with all the trappings and clothes and food and all that belongs to that time period, was excellently done. There was no comfotable Renaissance clothing or technology here!
It was also at once very clear that the author knew what he was talking about when it came to armour, weapons, movements and how long a person could fight in armour. There were no hour-long fights here and characters got hurt despite armour. They were bruised and got broken bones and were exhausted afterwards. It made it far more believable than most fantasy does it.
The King and the Queen were honestly in love and fond of each other, and – in this book at least – weren’t plotting to kill each other or to take over the kingdom or to have lovers on the side. That was a fresh breath of air in today’s fantasy. I really liked that even if the Queen herself did irritate me occasionally.
There is little to say about the other characters since there were so many of them. Bad Tom was a favourite of mine, as well as Sauce simply because there was little drama around them. The Red Knight was a good military commander and interesting to read about, except during his infatuation with Amicia. Gaston, Harmodius, the Abbess were likeable characters, and even De Vrailly was a pleasant surprise at one point.
Some the sentences (at the start of the book at least) seem a bit oddly structured, and there are a lot of technical terms used when it comes to armour and fighting. Both of these things make reading a bit more difficult, especially when one has to spend time looking up a particular piece of constantly-mentioned armour to know what the book was talking about, but this was a minor annoyance compared to the following two points: religion and characters.
The religion was Christianity through and through. Certainly it was slightly changed, a bit closer to paganism than true Christianity but there were no ifs, ands or buts about it. Jesus, God, the whole lot was there, and that constantly kept throwing me off. I kept on expecting to read about Henry VIII or the Wars of the Roses rather than a fantasy world. If only the names had been changed then it wouldn’t have been as bad.
There are also way too many characters are introduced way too quickly, especially since all these character have their own plots and plans. It is quite difficult to figure out who’s who and who’s allied with whom. And then the characters simply keep on coming, and in the end there is simply far too many of them. The time given to each character and the constant changes in point of view give the illusion of things taking far more time than they actually do and it can be a bit jarring when the realisation hits that only a few days passed in-book rather than the month it seemed like.
The sheer amount of characters also made it seem like the ones that got less show-time were being forgotten or weren’t important which made you wonder A) what were they doing during whatever happened, and B) what was the point of that character in the first place? One simply couldn’t get to know any of the characters because of the switches, and they all started to blurr together after a while. This is definitely a story-driven plot rather than character-driven plot.
Despite several spelling mistakes and usage of wrong names, this is a good story – otherwise I wouldn’t have finished reading it – but it has to be admitted that I skimmed from about halfway through the book. There were simply too many characters to really care about, and even the last fight at the end couldn’t make me interested again.
This is a story to read if you like lots of characters and a story-driven plot.
I think that I may read the sequel – or skim through it – but I honestly don’t know.