This is a short review, folks, largely because pretty much everything I said in my review of The Red Wolf Conspiracy also applies to its sequel, The Ruling Sea. Once again, Robert V. S. Redick has created a fantasy that recaptures the swashbuckling adventure that I first fell in love with in my youth in books like Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, The Sea-Hawk, Captain Blood, and the wonderful, marvelous tales of the ever-brilliant but woefully under-appreciated Lloyd Alexander. Yet once again, despite the familiar elements, The Ruling Sea doesn’t come across as a pastiche; it feels terrifically fresh. And, again, it’s packed with page after page of rollicking fun.
Like The Red Wolf Conspiracy, The Ruling Sea is set aboard the great sailing vessel Chathrand, a veritable fortress on the waves, last of her kind. The story picks up right where the previous volume left off, launching us directly into the adventure. Again, there is swashbuckling action, deft conspiracy, double-crosses, and unexpected twists aplenty. This time, Redick adds budding, forbidden romance, a secret island witch, a monster on a jungle island, battle at sea with cannons ablaze, and a whole lot more.
Indeed, there are times when I think Redick must have made a wish list of all the things he’d like to read in a favorite “under the covers with a flashlight” novel and then twisted his plot until he found a way to work them all in. As a result, the novel feels rather episodic at times. Some chapters, or at least groups of chapters, feel like complete adventures as well as a part of a larger, sweeping saga. Nonetheless, the well crafted, complex characters, both major and minor, and their evolving, engaging arcs tie the episodes together and kept me turning the pages long after bedtime. They are terrific, and I loved spending time with them. Now that the last page is turned, I find myself missing them all—as much as I miss those dear heroes from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain and Westmark books. Thankfully, Redick’s next novel in the series is coming soon. I’ve already preordered my copy.
I should mention that the book has a much more evocative title in England: The Rats the the Ruling Sea. I’m not sure why it was changed, save that rats play only a minor part in the story. I suppose rats just don’t sell as well in the United States as they do in the UK. Go figure.
As always, let me know what you think, okay?