The first book in this series, The Red Knight was something special – see my review here – and I also, eventually, much enjoyed The Fell Sword – see my review here – but now we are on the third book, has Cameron managed to sustain the pace, excitement and drama?
The Red Knight has stood against soldiers, against armies and against the might on an empire. He’s fought on real and magical battlefields alike, and now he’s facing his greatest challenge yet. A tournament. The flower of the nobility will ride against each other for royal favour and acclaim. It’s a contest the Red Knight has the skill to win. But the stakes are higher than he thinks: the court has been infiltrated by a dangerous faction, led by the greatest knight in the world – Jean de Vrailly.
This medieval swords and sorcery adventure revolves around the Red Knight’s mercenary outfit, who are now a whole lot more prosperous and secure than they were a couple of books ago. So you’d think their problems would be solved – but you’d be wrong. Things are badly awry in the kingdom of Alba, where a group have more or less taken over the court… the Wild are gathering all across the continent and massing under the leadership of Ash, the powerful mage, who has his own agenda.
I love this world. The main protagonist, Gabriel Muriens – our Red Knight – is clever, driven, a skilful fighter, brimful of magical talent and short fused. He pings off the page with charisma and a burning desire to prove himself to his family – his scheming mother and scornful father aren’t the kindest parents. There is also a whole cast of intriguing, three-dimensional characters who are all nuanced and complex so that no one is whiter than white and we get to see the motivations of even the darkest characters. Politicking and scheming abound in this book – but the outstanding aspect of this book and the series are the battle scenes. Cameron has taken part in tournaments while wearing armour and it shows. The battles are written with a sense of realism, intensity and danger that are in a class of their own – and it isn’t only slavering creatures from the Wild that die. A fair sprinkling of likeable, interesting characters are also cut down in skirmishes or full-scale battles.
The magic is also beautifully handled. Magicians need to be able to control and pinpoint their talents and are given precise visualisation methodology in order to control their ability. Mags, the Company’s seamstress, has managed to devise her own particular spell casting using her needleworking, while those classically trained have their mental palaces.
All in all, this series just goes on getting better and better, with several surprising twists that really have me wanting more. But if you haven’t yet had the pleasure – don’t start with The Dread Wyrm, go back to The Red Knight and read them in order. I haven’t read an epic fantasy swords and sorcery that is better crafted.