The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
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. . .
I had the fortunate pleasure to receive an early copy of Miles Cameron’s debut novel, The Red Knight. Never have I been more pleasantly surprised and impressed with a writer’s skills, which far exceeded my humble expectations. While Miles Cameron has written before, this is his first attempt at a fantasy novel, and it certainly will not be his last. The Red Knight is medieval-fantasy at its finest and well worth anyone’s time and effort.
The central conflict, at its essence, revolves around the denizens of the Wild against civilization and humanity. While the forces of the Wild include fantastical creatures such as irks, boglins, and trolls; the conflict is far more basic in nature, and one that our own world struggles with. The conflict is a critical view of the expansion of humans and encroaching civilization against the untamed, lush forests of the Wild. Despite the fantastical creatures that appear savage and cruel, the reader is cleverly manipulated to empathize with the creatures as we are treated to scenes of humanity’s own savage tendencies to those they deem “uncivilized.”
Thoughts of the colonization of the America’s by the Europeans come to mind, both for their views and treatment of the Native Americans and the inclusion by Miles Cameron of the Sossag, an equivalent to the Native American people. The Sossag were one of the more fascinating sections to read as they offered a unique view of the borderline between civilization and the denizens of the “Wild.”
The protagonist, known only as the Captain for the majority of the novel, is a realistically written man who does his best with what he is given. An anti-hero with a conscious, the Captain is a devout atheist living in a time when one’s devotion to God surpasses any other bond. Such as any other great novel the Captain undergoes a transformative inner journey as he defends a nunnery from siege. It is this journey that makes the Captain so fascinating to read.
The cast is extended further with numerous other viewpoints, which range from the Queen, to a crazed holy knight, all the way to an escaped slave turned native, the aforementioned Sossag people. Each time I felt I would grow weary of a character a new one would step in to take his place and offer a new view on the events of the world.
Perhaps what I am most impressed with, other than the characterization, is Cameron’s fantastic depiction of combat. It is rare for an author to be able to capture the chaos and fear that accompanies a fight, let alone a fight involving ghoulish irks and other frightening creatures as they scrape and claw at a man in restricting steel armor. Coupled with the realism that in war the body will feel every ache and pain, which is conveyed wonderfully, the reader will find the line separating the real world and the world of the book slowly disappearing. The author is a known re-enactor and medieval historian and he uses this knowledge to great effect in order to craft a story and a world that feels as authentic as The Red Knight.
Concepts such as Hermeticism or the Memory Palace have their place in our own history and it is refreshing to see Cameron adjust these concepts to suit his original magic system. Combined with an eye for detail regarding arms and armor, as well as siege tactics, make parts of this novel read as an alternate history rather than fiction.
One of the only drawbacks is also Cameron’s greatest strength, his familiarity with the medieval era and method of life. The terms and vocabulary he uses are very specific and I found myself referencing my dictionary more than once. That being said, once you grow more comfortable with the vocabulary you really appreciate and notice the passion Cameron has for this time frame in our history.
Despite Red Knight being Miles Cameron’s debut fantasy novel it is superbly written with particular care given to the characters and the action. If you’re a fan of characters that are incredibly realistic and battles that put you right in the sweaty, gritty action, this is a book for you. I have high hopes for the Traitor Son Cycle and will be eagerly looking forward to the sequel.
*Check out the review as it was originally published over at Fantasy-Faction*