The Red Knight (book 1) by Miles Cameron (book review).

March 8, 2018 | By | Reply More

There are publishers from whom you expect quality publications. These are not necessarily of a literary standard as popular books of often well-written with excellent characterisation, plot structure and exciting events that draw the reader along. They may be enjoyable thrillers or pot-boilers that distract for an hour or so and once upon a time there were editors. These were people who had words with an author if they were going off piste. Now it seems like never mind the quality, feel the width. When this happens with a publisher you thought you could trust, it is sad.

‘The Red Knight’ is a debut novel desperately in need of editing. To begin with, this book doesn’t know what it wants to be, partly because the author has thrown everything at it and it overflows with ingredients that have no place in the story he really wants to tell. Miles Cameron admits to indulging in role-playing-games. This has all the chaos of one. Such games do not necessarily translate into coherent novels without a lot of pruning. One thing he does know about is mediaeval warfare and that is what is at the heart of this novel.

This is a fantasy. It has a map. It doesn’t resemble any familiar part of the world, I wouldn’t expect it to, yet there are characters whose names distinctly put them in various parts of the British Isles and there is no attempt to create a logical naming system for this setting. Having a religion is understandable, it is what humans tend to invent but this has all the trappings of Catholicism with nuns, priests, abbeys and services conducted in Latin as if this was actually mediaeval Britain. There are hints that this might be a future descended into a non-tech state but these trappings of religion would not have been maintained and quoting Aristotle is an anachronism.

The plot revolves around a mercenary troupe of knights that the Abbess has hired to protect her abbey from ‘The Wild’. Their leader is the Red Knight of the title and, until his brother turns up, he is only ever referred to as the Captain. The enemy comes from The Wild and consists of endless hordes of creatures such as irks, boglins, trolls and the occasional wyvern.

These have been persuaded, against their better judgement, to fight on behalf of Thorn, a renegade wizard who was once the lover of the Abbess, before she took holy orders. Other than for world domination, it’s not quite sure why Thorn has a grudge against humans. The set-up seems to be an excuse for knights in medieval armour to fight inferior creatures causing bloodshed and mayhem but around this could have been woven a decent plot.

Most writers learn their trade by writing, then going back and improving their prose. If nothing else, editors should help them do this. The start of this novel contains a lot of elementary mistakes. The prose is very stilted and sentences are unfinished. There are too many short scenes and it is rare for consecutive ones to have the same point of view or be remotely in the same place. Cameron has tried to tell his tale from the point of view of too many disparate characters, most of which clutter up the narrative. The novel would have been vastly improved by cutting out fifty percent of them. It isn’t helped that many sections change point of view part-way through.

There is a lot of good fantasy out there. This isn’t one of them.

Pauline Morgan

March 2018

(pub: Gollancz, 2012. 648 page enlarged paperback, 2012. Price: £14.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-11329-9

pub: Gollancz, 2013. 766 page paperback. Price; £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-11330-5)

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