The Rats And The Ruling Sea continues the adventures of plucky tarboy Pazel Pathkendle and his friends on the great ship Chathrand as they attempt to thwart the nefarious machinations of the wizard Arunis and grand-assassin Sandor Ott. Both villains are intent on wrecking ‘The Great Peace’ and plunging the two empires of Alifros into war; Arunis because he – like all evil wizards – wants to rule the entire world and Ott because his master, the Emperor of Arqual, wants to… rule the entire world.
It’s hardly original, but Robert Redick has taken this most hackneyed of fantasy staples and crafted it into something special. Setting the majority of the action on a gigantic ship is a neat concept and so many ideas and characters are thrown at the reader that we, like the ship itself, are swept along with the tide. Inhabiting the wainscoting of the Chathrand are all manner of creatures, including the titular ‘awoken’ (sentient) rats, a tribe of tiny humanoids called the Ixchel, Arunis, Pathkendle and his allies, the insane Captain Rose and Sandor Ott, all of whom have conflicting agendas, which inevitably leads to conflict, betrayal and a good deal of action.
There are weaknesses in the novel – with so much going on, characterisation and plotting are often sacrificed on the altar of world-building. Also Redick’s panacea device of using character-written letters to stitch things together is something of a cop-out. But these are minor gripes in what is, on the whole, a great read. At nearly 600 pages long, The Rats And The Ruling Sea is a book that demands commitment, but its unusual setting and quirky ideas make it a rewarding and absorbing read and we look forward to the next instalment.
[isbn name=”The Rats And The Ruling Sea”]978-0575081796[/isbn]