From the three major fantasy debuts I have read this year Anthony Ryan's Blood Song was my favourite closely followed by David Hair's Mage's Blood and the Red Knight is also an excellent read but just a shade below the high standards set by the two earlier releases.
The Red Knight is more of an alternative historical fantasy with a strong religious background, the fantasy elements come from an intriguing magical system based on the power of the wild and the ability to access rooms in the mind to harness power and cast. The creatures of the wild are well described and include daemons, wyverns, boglins, qwethnethogs, golden bears and trolls, some are formidable warriors others pure cannon fodder.
The book is set out in short chapters with multiple POV's, this works well and is similar in essence to the Song of Ice and Fire series but containing lots of sections within the chapters. Although you do eventually feel there are too many seemingly central characters that simply don't contribute significantly enough to warrant POV chapters. In that respect I felt the book was slightly too long and could have been streamlined with no loss to story arc's.
The Red Knight is the captain of a band of mercenary's who take on a commission to hunt creatures of the wild responsible for murdering a group of nun's at a steading outside Lissen Carak. It soon becomes apparent that the creatures of the wild are massing and under the leadership of a formidable sorcerer the Fortress town of Lissen Carack is soon under siege.
There are a multitude of impressive characters, most notably the flawed title hero, The Red Knight whose identity is revealed later in the book, for me there was some history of the captain held back, I wanted to know more about how a 20 year old knight gained command of such a group of strong characters, I guess this will be forthcoming in the following books in the series. Other characters that deserve a mention are the powerhouse Bad Tom, Sauce and the two sorcerers Thorn and Harmodius. Some of the mercenaries possess inventive nicknames such as Oak Pew and Long Paw but the best has to be the archer Wilful Murder.
The action scenes of which there are many are very well written, intense and realistic, the butchering of the boglins becomes a familiar backdrop but the fights with the more powerful creatures of the wild more than makes up for this. Standing out was the technical descriptions of such things as the armour, the medieval weapons used, the mercenaries tactics during the siege interlaced with the sorcery show a skilled storyteller and a mass of potential for this series.
The final 100 pages set the scene for the next book The Fell Sword of which I am now looking forward to immensely, overall an excellent debut and highly recommended.