A long time ago, in another lifetime, I spent a year with the Society for Creative Anachronism (aka "the SCA"). They were an interesting lot and that year-and-change was one of the more eventful in that period of my life.
I've just finished "The Fell Sword", the sequel to "The Red Knight", both by Miles Cameron. Why do I bring up the SCA? 'Cause these books drip of it. They ooze SCA.
If a medieval pseudo-Europe had magic and was waging a war with fairy-tale creatures, you would have the setting for "The Red Knight" and "The Fell Sword". It's a world where knights and squires hack their way through battlefields, soldiers fight and die, and there's some seriously-dubious morality.
It's a world with flavors of magic, terrible displays of arcane power, and complex politics.
Cameron weaves a world that is clearly-inspired by his historical studies. Faith in God is core to many of the characters and station (noble-birth or common-birth) is important to many.
Throughout the middle of both books rides the Red Knight, an enigmatic, charming, deadly warrior with a command of powerful magic and a brilliant tactical mind. With him is his Company, including the violent Bad Tom, the former prostitute-turned-knight Sauce, the religious, magic-casting scout Gelfred, and others.
While the Red Knight's story is central to both books, his is not the only tale being told. There's also Amidicia, the magically-gifted nun who shares a bond with the Red Knight and holds his heart. There's Harmodius, the magus of the King of Alba, who starts to realize that things are really, horribly wrong. There's the Queen of Alba, glorious in her beauty and possessing great magical power of her own. And there's Thorn, who was once a man and is now something far more.
Hell, that's not even half the characters, really. Cameron weaves in dozens of characters in a manner akin to George R.R. Martin's books and has much of the terrible brutality found in the "Song of Ice and Fire" series.
I have to say I approve of how Cameron handles it.
His narrative style does tend to wander a bit. He goes into excruciating detail about the pieces of armor, the styles of sword-play, and the types of garments (which is the sort of thing that really reminded me of the SCA). Still, I found myself engaged by it all and had a hard time putting the books down.
"The Red Knight" had a cleaner storyline, though I found the ending a bit abrupt. "The Fell Sword" takes much longer to get traction and really doesn't resolve much in terms of story but rather does a lot of setting things up for future novels.
I have to say I'm looking forward to the future novels but hope they're a little tighter.
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