Book Review: The Rats and the Ruling Sea by Robert V.S. Redick

The most intricate, perplexingly detailed and well-constructed fantasy you’ll ever read.

This is the second book in the The Chathrand Voyage series, and it’s just as good as the first book. The story follows the lives of several passengers on the massive ship, Chathrand, and details their adventures as they are pulled into a multi-leveled conspiracy that hopes to incite war, death, and doom across the world.

Our protagonist, Pazel Pathkendle is a young tarboy onboard the ship, who gets entangled into the confusing politics of conspiracy due to his magical abilities to understand any language he’s exposed to. It’s a unique and exciting kind of magic, unlike anything I’ve read before, and it gives Pazel the role of hero without making him a great warrior or strategist or anything of the sort. All he has is understanding and wits.

This is honestly one of the most complex and layered books I’ve ever read. The whole series is like this, and I said the same in my review of Book 1, which you can read here. There are conspiracies wrapped in conspiracies and the intricate politics and agency that drives all the big players make this an absolutely fascinating thrilleresque tye of fantasy novel. Also, the fact that almost the entire plot for two books so far has happened aboard the Chatrand makes this very unique. Sure, they find land here and there, and there are some brief side narratives that takes place away from the massive ship–which is the only one left of its kind–and it’s absolutely fascinating. One of the most well-crafted and exciting fantasy worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

At the same time, the intricate and complex narrative is also this book’s downfall. The book comes across as confusing and convoluted at times, making it a chore to keep reading. I imagine a lot of people don’t even make it to book two, because the language is at often times very difficult to grasp. I can’t quite put my finger on why, if it’s the use of strange fantasy words, a confusing and complex narrative, or the way characters keep talking in each other’s mouths, but I often struggled to understand what was going on.

One hand, the author has written one of the coolest fantasies I’ve read in a long while, on the other, I feel like he’s keeping it from me. As if the book contains some secret message that he doesn’t want readers to be able to decipher, so he hides it away by writing as difficult as humanely possible.

Maybe it’s just me – and don’t get me wrong, I still love the books and I can’t wait to start book three in the series – but I wish it was more easily accessible.

And of course, if you like a challenge, and enjoy complicated narratives and complex writing, then I’m sure you’ll love this! I’d be very interested to hear what other readers think, if my description of the writing is completely unwarranted or if other people see it the same way. Either way, you want to read this for the amazing world building. It’s incredible.

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