The debut fantasy novel from a historical fiction author, The Red Knight is equal parts frustrating and promising.
Frustrating because it is incredibly long and feels as if a good proportion of the story told from the perspective of the minor characters could have been left out and not harmed the story one bit. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that a good 20% of this manuscript could have been exorcised and the end book would only have been better for it. Instead, the reader has to slog through pages and pages of fairly minor developments, all while waiting for the next big battle or revelation to occur. This is one book which also really needed a dramatis personae front and center, because there are way too many characters to keep a track of, and some of them have names that are too similar to readily distinguish between. The book would also have greatly benefited from having a map to help orientate the reader visually.
All that said, The Red Knight is, as mentioned, also very promising. The red knight himself is well developed, as are most of the other major characters, and the world building is fairly well-balanced alongside plot development. The magic system is also unusual and interesting. Ultimately, though, this is a siege novel, so The Red Knight lives and dies by the battles that comprise this siege, and thankfully, Cameron gives a good account of these. The action is clear, the chaos is well-described, and the stakes become increasingly desperate - exactly as they should. The best part of the book, however, is how well Cameron sets things up for the future novels in the series. The last 50 pages are pretty much an extended coda, but it's within these pages that the most intriguing elements of the novel are introduced.
In the afterword, Cameron praises Steven Erikson for his work with THE MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN, and well he should, as The Red Knight adheres very closely to the formula Erikson developed for his 10-novel series. The Red Knight may not be as complicated or as gritty as the MALAZAN series, but it shares many of the other characteristics that worked within those pages, especially the much-loved Memories of Ice.
If long, epic fantasy is your cup of tea, I would heartily recommended The Red Knight to you. I'm a bit over the time and commitment that is required for these types of series, but I'm intrigued enough to chase down the sequel, The Fell Sword, once I've had time enough to recover from wading through the start of THE TRAITOR SON CYCLE.
3 Varied Beasts of the Wild for The Red Knight.