The Red Knight (The Traitor Son Cycle #1)

The Red Knight Book Cover The Red Knight
The Traitor Son Cycle
Miles Cameron
Fantasy
Orbit (originally Gollancz)
January 22, 2013 (originally September 1, 2012)
Paperback
672

Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.

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.

It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.

The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he's 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 Red Knight is one of those medieval fantasy books that just gets everything right. Miles Cameron’s “About the Author” page mentions he has a BA in Medieval History and it really shows. Everything in the book just flows together beautifully. People from all walks of life (farmers, soldiers, royalty, etc.) have their place in the story. There is no one who knows everything about everything, so the characters can explain things to each other. And in turn, to readers. The world building, characters, and story are all built up well in this way.

If you have read a high fantasy or epic fantasy before, you roughly know what to expect here. This is a land where great battles were once fought but the power of man has diminished. Creatures of evil are now seeking to take advantage of that weakness. It has a very War of the Ring vibe to that aspect of the story. The magic system is also subtler than many other fantasy stories. Only a select few people have magic and even then, it is pretty tame outside of giant battle sequences. The array of magical creatures is also impressive as well; some are common, well-known beasties while Cameron puts his own spin on a few things as well.

The story jumps between perspectives, so we get to see quite a bit of each character firsthand. The titular Red Knight is a mercenary leader with a mysterious past, one not fully explained in this first book. His mercenaries are fun too, particularly Bad Tom (the living definition of “battle lust”) and Sauce (tougher-than-nails kickass woman). The villain Thorn, being not human, makes for an interesting perspective for more reasons than I have room to write about here. There is a slew of characters that a whole review could be dedicated to and they are really the best part of The Red Knight.

As for the plot itself, it is more a war story than anything else. The mercenaries start thinking they need to catch a murderer. Events quickly build from there and soon after they are defending a fortress from a siege. In a lot of fantasy books, you see a big battle and when it is done, it is done. This is a full-blown siege; days of the enemy attacking and then defenses being shored up for the next attack. A book this long is very hard to sum up in a little review like this. So I will just say it: If you have any interest in epic fantasy, The Red Knight is well worth the read.

July 8, 2018

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