The Chathrand – The Great Ship, The Wind-Palace, His Supremacy’s First Fancy – is the last of her kind – built 600 years ago she dwarves all the ships around her. The secrets of her construction are long lost. She was the pride of the Empire. The natural choice for the great diplomatic voyage to seal the peace with the last of the Emperor’s last enemies.
700 souls boarded her. Her sadistic Captain Nilus Rose, the Emperor’s Ambassador and Thasha, the daughter he plans to marry off to seal the treaty, a spy master and six assassins, one hunderd imperial marines, Pazel the tarboy gifted and cursed by his mother’s spell and a small band of Ixchel. The Ixchel sneaked aboard and now hide below decks amongst the rats. Intent on their own mission.
But there is treachery afoot. Behind the plans for peace lies the shadow of war and the fear that a dead king might live again. And now the Chathrand, having survived countless battles and centuries of typhoons has gone missing.
This is her story.
I read this book with Blaise at SFF Under the Radar Books as part of a readalong. Blaise has also joined Friends Talking Fantasy Podcasts to record a podcast about the book. Even better, the author, Robert V.S. Redick, joined in. A very interesting listen, if you have time!
Now, onto the review.
I enjoyed this book a lot, even though I’d say I’m not a huge fan of YA. However, when I do read YA, I prefer that it’s filled with adventure rather than romance – and so on this count, The Red Wolf Conspiracy fit the bill.
My favourite part of this book was the setting. I enjoyed the voyage on the Chathrand and all the naval terminology. For me, this really set the book above other adventure fantasy YA novels. I really felt that I was aboard at times, so well realised was the ship and her inhabitants. Pazel, a tarboy, was our main protagonist and I enjoyed finding out about how a great ship operates through his eyes.
Another highlight was the ‘wakened’ animals and the Ixchel. It added a more fantastical element to the story than I was expecting. The Ixchel were a fascinating race, who are brave and daring, and due to their small size, were able to work out much of the scheming underway.
Also, I loved the voice of Felthrup, the wakened rat. The voice that the author used to show his inner POV, was brilliant. I really felt for him, living amongst other rats who thought he was crazy.
Overall, the story is intricate. There are lots of characters plotting and double crossing. The antagonists have some POV chapters too, which were always very interesting, and the book has several ‘journal’ chapters from the perspective of the Quartermaster, Fiffengurt. These are always fun, because he can tell something is awry, but not what. The style of the journal was sometimes quite gossipy – which rather randomly put me in mind of Lady Whistledown.
My only criticism, was that the children protagonists felt very young. They made lots of childish mistakes – were too trusting, blurted out their thoughts at inappropriate times – and sometimes this grated. The adults around them were more interesting and part of me wishes this was told as an adult fantasy, rather than YA.
That being said, I’m told as the series progresses the children characters age up and the series becomes more adult. I’m definitely looking forward to this as I feel the series will suit my tastes even more.
I’d definitely recommend this series for fans of His Dark Materials, as the mixture of children protagonists and ‘wakened’ animals, would suit you. I’d also say it would be a good YA series for fans of Malazan – as there is large scale world building and an interesting soft magic system.
Thanks for reading the review! I’ll have a few more out in December, so keep an eye out for them.