My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Now that’s what you call a rocking start!
If there was ever a book that was true to its title it would be this book. There are a lot of guns and there is a lot of flying and there are a lot of flying guns! Victorian era is easy to romanticize, large empires, constant fight for resources, plucky military officers, entitled nobles, interesting colonial cultures etc etc. It is difficult, however, to keep the narrative and characters unique. Robyn Bennis does a fab job of providing a very fresh world, story and set of characters, in a book that is not set on planet earth.
The story dives straight into a conflict that is happening in a world which represents late 19th century earth. You have two empires war with each other for territory. On one side we have the unbeaten Granians, who are slowly losing their luster. On the other are the Vins (or dumplings) from Vinzhalia, who are gradually gaining ground. Both have discovered airships (though not airplanes) and use risky technology to send their airmen fighting against each other along with the incompetent ground forces. Our protagonists come from the Granian side.
We have a grumpy female ship captain (Josette) and a dubious fop of a nobleman (Bernat) to look forward to for our narrative povs. I took an immediate liking to both the characters and I am sure other readers of steampunk will do so too. They represent the best mix of adventurous, ambitious and cunning traits that characterize some of the legends of Victorian era. Given the extreme contrast in background and demeanor, some friction, a few sparks are bound to happen. The characters interact and rub against each other (in one case literally) very amusingly. There are ‘hidden depths’ to the characters which come out slowly and hopefully will continue as the series progresses. Along with this, we have a few good characters, whose fate in the series will be interesting to follow.
The best part about the book is the pace at which events move. I started the book late (around 10) in the night but was unable to put it down before I finished it. Things just kept happening without a pause and before I knew, the 300+ pages were over! 2017 has been a little disappointing on the un-put-downable front but this book changes that!
Considering that this is the first book that the author, Robyn Bennis, has ever written, it is truly one-hell-of-a job. Kudos Robyn Bennis! And “Up Ship!” to your career!