The Red Wolf Conspiracy - Robert V.S. Redick The Good:

Love how this book started -- right away, the reader is informed through a "special notice" that the great ship has vanished at sea, along with the 800 souls she was carrying. (Souls...the choice of that word in the report had a chilling effect on me). Immediately, you're drawn into this mystery and you're flipping to the first page of the first chapter, eager to start the story which would tell you what happened.

I was also impressed with just how much is in this book. There's so much magic and different races and different creatures in this book. Everyone seems to have an element of fantasy surrounding them, like Pazel the tarboy who has been blessed/burdened with a gift/curse that allows him learn and understand any language after only being exposed to them for a short time. But this power, however, also frequently gives him debilitating fits that interferes with his job aboard the decks.

Then there are the Ixchel, a race of tiny people that sailors often consider nothing more than pests because their tendency to stow away aboard ships. There are also the Flikkermen, Murths (like mermaids), and a race of gigantic, enormously strong humanoids called the Augrong, among others. Not to mention the presence of special animals that are "awakened" with self-awareness and the power of intellectual thought and speech. The book is a trove of new and interesting ideas for people who love fantasy fiction.

The So-So:

There is such thing as too much of a good thing. The plus of having so much going on in this book can also be seen as a minus. There are a lot of ambitious ideas in this ambitious story set in an ambitious fantasy world, and sometimes it can all get just a little too overwhelming.

The first few chapters were done really well, telling a sequence of events through the eyes of several characters, with each point-of-view picking things up right after where the last one left off. Unfortunately, it also made me feel so disoriented that I had to go back and read through them again just to make sure I didn't miss anything. At this point, there were still a lot of things I didn't understand, but I just made do with telling myself to trust the author, that hopefully there will come a time when everything will be made clear.

Ultimately, everything was explained, which was good, but I still thought it was a lot in the intro to heap upon your reader so quickly.

The Not-So-Good:

This is more of a personal preference, really, but I just don't think "maritime fantasy" is for me. Reading about great ships and pirates and the ocean and sailing and all that puts me more in mind of historical fiction, and so I had a really hard time bringing myself back to the fact I'm actually reading a fantasy. It's just really weird. No matter how long I'd been reading this, there was always a moment of discombobulation and confusion when I picked up the book again to continue where I left off.

Unfortunately, it really kept me from being immersed in this book and enjoying it fully. That said, those who love maritime settings and stories about ships would probably really love this. But even though that aspect wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I do have to say I was completely enchanted by the book's fantasy elements.