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Cover Illustration by: Kerem Beyit
The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Traitor Son Cycle (Book #1 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Pages: 784 pages (UK paperback)
Published: 1st September 2012 by Gollancz (UK) & 20th January 2013 by Orbit (US)
Great siege battles and incredibly detailed on how weaponry and armor works, but not gonna lie, I have mixed feelings about The Red Knight.
The Red Knight is the first book in The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron. This is one of those series that’s so often recommended to me by many fantasy readers, but I have always found the works of Miles Cameron, a pseudonym for Christian Cameron, to be quite intimidating to go start. Cameron is a prolific author who has written SO MANY books across multiple genres. I’m not kidding, look up his bibliography; he has written at least 40 novels! However, the praises towards this series and the amazing cover arts by Kerem Beyit definitely managed to finalize my decision to start this series. I mostly enjoyed reading The Red Knight, but I can’t help but feel that this could’ve been so much better for me.
The Red Knight follows the story of The Red Knight, most commonly called as Captain, and his group of mercenaries in their mission to protect an Abbess and her nunnery in the battle against the cunning and deadly creatures of The Wild. I had a lot of difficulty getting into The Red Knight. This is a thick book, it’s almost 800 pages and 300k words long, and I had to really push myself through almost the entirety of the first half due to several reasons; that’s almost 400 pages long of struggling through the narrative.
“Men were born without talons, but the claws they forged for themselves were deadlier than anything the Wild might give them.”
If you’ve heard of opinions/reviews on The Red Knight, it is very likely that you’ve heard that this book featured a LOT of POV characters, and yeah, this is true. We’re talking about at least 20 POV characters here. However, my main issue with this isn’t in the numbers itself—I don’t mind a lot of POV characters; I’ve read plenty of epic fantasy series with a huge number of POV characters that I thoroughly enjoyed—but in how so many of these POV characters felt redundant, unnecessary, or even useless to the plot; they didn’t make the book better, they instead slowed down the pacing immensely. The only characters (out of so many) that I found to be interesting and worth reading about were The Red Knight, Bad Tom, Jean de Vrailly, Thorn, and Harmodius. I didn’t find the rest of the cast of characters compelling, and I honestly think the book would’ve benefited if many of them were completely cut out from the story. Also, the romance sub-plot between The Red Knight and Amicia was, in my opinion, so bad; it’s like the romance was there because a romance MUST exist. Every moment in which The Red Knight told Amicia he loved her out of nowhere made me eye-rolled so hard.
“Love only those worthy of your love. Love those who love themselves, and love all around them. Love the best—the best in arms, the first in the hall, the finest harpist, and the best chess player. Love no man for what he owns, but only for what he does.”
The second half of the novel was, thankfully, miles apart better than the first half. Once the story starts shifting to the Siege of Lissen Carak, I was so much engrossed and immersed with the narrative. The biggest reasons behind this is that Cameron knows how to write great battle scenes that felt believable and gripping, and I certainly loved reading the development and revelations behind The Red Knight’s character and background; there’s still so much to learn about him, and I think the next books will reveal more interesting about him. However, it was the incredible focus on a smaller number of POV in the second half that increased my enjoyment of the book, and my god I hope the next installment and further will adapt this storytelling decision from the start.
One last thing before I end this review, I don’t get why people are calling this a high fantasy. The setting felt like medieval England with Christianity as the people’s religion. Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and Judas are actually religious figures in the story. Am I missing something here? The world-building felt distracting, and this book, to me, felt like alternate history/historical fantasy rather than high fantasy which usually take place in a completely fictional world.
‘“Jesus and his disciples,” Harmodius added. The captain gave a lopsided smile. “Which of us, I wonder, is Judas?”’
As you can probably guess, I am so conflicted with my feelings on The Red Knight. I mostly enjoyed what I’ve read here, but it could’ve been amazing if it wasn’t bogged down by some frustrating issues such as too many unnecessary POV and (personally) not inspiring world-building. I hope the next book will fix these issues because when Cameron focused the narrative on fewer main characters, the quality of the storytelling improved dramatically for me.
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