One the most exciting things to happen over the Christmas and New Year break was that I can across some great new epic fantasy. A new author discovery for me! Miles Cameron’s The Red Knight.
I could not say that Cameron is necessarily a new author. Cameron, who also writes under the pen name of Gorden Kent, has published a substantial body of historical fiction, as well as series of espionage thrillers, but he was certainly new to me as a fantasy author when I got hold of a copy of The Red Knight.
Every now and then an author comes along that makes you sit up and smile, and Cameron certainly did this for me with Red Knight. This is an exceptional novel. Well written, well plotted, with a unique magic system, a well-drawn world of epic fantasy, great action and excellent characterisation.
I was not so sure off the mark. Although obviously well written — Cameron writes like a pro and his background in historical fiction has given him clarity and precision — there were some things that put me off. These were in the realm of structure and artistic choices, rather than craft.
One was the high level of detail in armour description. I have a limited tolerance for technical descriptions that bog down the narrative flow, like extensive descriptions of sniper rifles in thrillers for example. Although I respected his obvious detailed knowledge of period armour, this was initially a negative for me.
The second thing was Cameron’s penchant for writing in vignettes. There was short scene after short scene — very short, some only a page or less — most of which introduced new character after new character.
Here Cameron had to work through the difficulty of the writer who draws a broad canvass for a series — how to introduce the necessary cast of characters without slowing down the story and confusing the reader. Well, for me it really did slow the story down, at least at the start.
By the time I was fifty pages in, I had accepted the detailed descriptions of armour as necessary for the piece. This was epic fantasy, with knights in armour and the whole panoply of attendant squires, men-at-arms, crossbowmen, archers etc, and the descriptions and specialised vocabulary ultimately added to the sharpness with which the world is drawn. My initial hesitation on this front was probably due to the fact that I am not typically an epic fantasy reader — I tend toward heroic fantasy in unique and completely non-medieval settings.
I was probably about one third of the way through the book by the time I had adapted to the continuing vignettes and was comfortable with the large array of characters.
By this stage I was completely hooked on the story.
If you love fantasy, and particularly if you like epic fantasy, check out The Red Knight.
I, for one, am really looking forward to the rest of this series. I haven’t been this excited by a new fantasy writer in a long time.
HERE BE SPOILERS! (If you want to read the book, stop reading now:)).
I love magic – hey that’s why I write fantasy – and I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a new magic system as much. I really enjoyed the subsidiary characters, particularly the mage Harmodius.
The broader story, and the array of Wild creatures, was also very well done, with a mix of the new and familiar.
One thing I did think could have been stronger was the portrayal of Thorn. This man was supposed to have once been a magical genius, yet he reacted to like an angry adolescent to any provocation, and was ultimately revealed to have been manipulated by forces unknown. I would have liked more complexity in Thorn.
I do like my villains to be complex — something I probably got from reading so many Gemmell novels. Now there was an author who knew how to write shades of grey into both his protagonists, and antagonists.