Aaah. Just when I was beginning to feel a serious wonder craving, my Magic Book Fairy at Del Rey sent me a book that in its opening chapters, is as packed full of wonder as any book I've ever read. That book is The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick.
Let's start with the cover. It's just sheer eye candy. A huge sailing ship cast against a sunset, sparkling with scintillating lights. And this is the Advance Reader's Edition, which generally doesn't look as nice as the finished version. Within is an old-time map, complete with compass roses and a god of the sea with two leashed lions, floating on a cloud. Turn the page, and we have a Special Notice from The Etherhorde Mariner, presumably a newspaper.
Yes, from the opening pages, this book announces itself to be something special. But what I've noticed about Del Rey, is all their books seem to be something special. Their treatment of The Warded Man wasn't quite this luscious, but it came close.
Anyway, on with the story.
The newspaper article gets the reader all curious about the sinking of the IMS Chathrand. Or rather, the loss of the Chathrand at sea; no one actually knows if it sank or not. The introductory point-of-view character is a boy named Pazel Pathkendel, and Mr. Redick wastes no time in engaging the reader's sympathy. It quickly becomes evident that Pazel is something more than a typical tarboy, and Mr. Redick reveals information with the touch of a master, each little snippet making me curious to learn more.
Along the way, Pazel gets to see the IMS Chathrand, but only at a super-macro point of view, like right up against its hull at night. It is a ship of wonder, and can house 800 souls. It is six hundred years old, a treasure from a lost age. When Pazel finally gets to see it, the reader is as eager as he is.
The plot continues to twist in ways I never expected, leaving me at one heck of a cliffhanger when we abruptly depart Pazel's point-of-view. Mr. Redick handles point-of-view changes in a way I have not seen before. Instead of the departing point of view leading into the subsequent point of view, the second point-of-view sort of spins off the preceding one. For example, we leave Pazel at the end of a dock. The next character is introduced by her impressions of seeing Pazel standing there at the end of the dock.
And then, we are introduced to a creature hinted at in the back cover blurb as "a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors," the ixchel. These creatures have me all kinds of curious, as do some other critters mentioned in the blurb, such as "a rat with a magical secret" and "treacherous mermaids."