The Red Knight is the first fantasy offering from Miles Cameron, better known for historical fiction published as Christian Cameron. It shows. Cameron’s prose is effortlessly powerful, and he’s confident in his plotting and characterization. There’s an attention to and obvious love for the minutia rarely found in fantasy. Many, many medieval words will have you reaching for your dictionary, and not all are pieces of armor.
The setting is a pretty direct analog to medieval England. That has thrown me off in the past—The Crimson Shadow trilogy springs to mind—but here it did not. Why? Because I think it can often be an easy out, a way for the author to avoid the heavy lifting of world-building. I like sword-and-sorcery as much as the next fantasy fan, but I’m a firm believer there needs to be a well-drawn world behind it. I can lob no such complaints at Cameron’s “Albin.” Cameron never lacks for detail. And, we come to see, he has bigger plans for his world (more so in The Fell Sword and The Dread Wyrm, but we get some of that here).
The other unavoidable comparison is to George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire. Unsurprising, as both are steeped in English history. The Red Knight is even divided from The Wild by a long wall (like the Wall from A Song of Ice and Fire, inspired by Hadrian’s Wall). Cameron’s Wild, as it turns out, is far more interesting than anything north of Martin’s Wall we’ve seen thus far.
It’s the Wild that brings the titular Red Knight—his initial anonymity a plot point—to the Abbey at Lissen Carrack. What starts as a simple monster hunting expedition for the mercenary company the Red Knight captains turns into a full out incursion by the Wild and its many monsters. What follows is on its face a pretty standard siege story, especially before the layers start to be peeled back on the hermeticism-based magic system. What really sets the story apart are the many, many POVs. Each lives and breathes as a character and each shows another facet of Cameron’s world. The Fell Sword also reveals that some POVs from The Red Knight that come off as scene setting are relevant to the larger story.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of The Red Knight through NetGalley.