Wednesday, January 2, 2013

REVIEW: The Red Knight by Miles Cameron

The Red Knight The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Red Knight (TRK) was a mixed bag surprises.

Great writing

I love the succinct writing. I love the subheading of the character’s name and their location every time the plot shifts in POV. TRK is a big Fantasy book, and I expected to be lost in a wall of text at some point, but I never really was.

Too many POVs

What I did not love was the boatload of irrelevant POVs. It took me a couple long chapters to realize the book was plot-driven given the focus on the large cast and how an unexpectedly small amount, about less than a third of the book, of the plot was told from the eponymous protagonist’s POV.

I never felt that the book attempted to make me feel attached to the characters. Many times I wanted Thorn, the main villain, to succeed and kill all the good guys because I was bored silly with their inanities, especially with 2-3 characters I wanted dead already. So bored I ended up skimming the middle of book; I wanted to be done with the book already and read something else. It would have taken a miracle for me to pay attention to the book again.

Amazingly, a miracle did happen, which was the biggest surprise of the book. I skimmed for a couple minutes but I stopped once the good guys and bad guys were finally duking it out. The excitement regained my attention. TRK shined for me in those battle scenes, and finally there was a purpose to all those POVs.

Lack of misogyny

More importantly, TRK didn’t have that tone of misogyny I usually see in Fantasy. There were usual references of rape, but it wasn’t done as gritty-realism fluff. All the female characters were strong. None all of them played second fiddle to their manly man partners, be they a romantic interest or a fellow warrior. Not even the queen was secondary to the king. Speaking of the queen, it was refreshing to read a Fantasy where the queen and king are alive and in love, and to see that one trivial character of a douchebag who threaten rape got quickly chastised. They were peripheral details but they made a big impact in my reading experience.

The lack of misogyny greatly compensated for the disappointing revelation of The Red Knight (the character), the secret for why he went by the moniker and hid his noble background. I thought it would be something more tragic and devastating, not something that happens in almost every normal noble family I have ever read in Fantasy.

Accessible world building

The world building was quickly graspable. I didn’t actively keep track; passive immersion was enough. The setting took place in a medieval kingdom walled against the Wild, similar to The Others in GRRM’s series, with a reference of a faraway kingdom that have French named knights. It didn’t take long for me to imagine TRK’s kingdom as a faux-England.

TRK had Christianity but TRK’s Christianity felt more like paganism; never once did the story feel religious or portray the religion in a black and white manner. I really liked how naturally interwoven the spiritual/magical element was with the religion.

Not a black and white book

It would have been easy for TRK to portray the Wild as bad guys who are destined to be defeated by the end of the series if the book has any intention to make the series’ ending satisfactory. Many times I empathized their plight, and I would have been okay if they won. I liked how diverse the Wild was with some as beasts and some as humanoids. It was not straight out demons who destroy for evil’s sake; in fact, it was strongly suggested that the Wild was of nature, and that there was a theme of nature vs. civilization at play in the book.

The Wild also have human allies called Jacks by their enemies. These Jacks weren’t barbarians or criminals that no human civilization would accept but the Wild. They were people who wanted freedom and the end of slavery and the monarchy, leading to another theme of divine rights vs. human rights.

In Conclusion

I rate TRK 2-stars for it was okay. While I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I wanted and skimmed some of it, I can plainly see why frequent Fantasy readers would. I liked that the book can be enjoyed as a simple adventure or a critical read. I would have liked TRK to have a tighter plot by doing away with the multiple POVs and move faster towards the big showdowns between the humans and the Wild.

I may not have enjoyed the book much but I would recommend frequent Fantasy readers to try the series out.

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