CourtoftheAirStephenHun53155_fSo, what to say about  The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt, which was intended to be one of my reads for Carl’s Once Upon a Time III challenge but which I miserably failed to complete on time? Well, before getting into the meat of the plot, it’s worth recording that this is one of the best examples of steam-punk that I have read, and it’s a good introduction to that genre if you have never tried it before.

We are in Jackals, a pseudo-Victorian society with a parliamentary democracy of sorts, a nominal king (who has his arms amputated when he inherits the throne so that he can never take up weapons against his people) and an extensive secret police. We have two young people: Molly, who is an orphan in the Poor House and towards the beginning of the book is taken to work in a local bawdy-house; and Oliver, who is shunned by his local community because of the time he spent within the Feymist, from where people return dangerously changed, if indeed they return at all. A separate series of violent deaths lead these two to go on the run supported by a motley crew of helpers, before their paths cross as a mysterious, ancient evil foments rebellion, threatens civilization as they know it, and all the usual society-in-peril-waiting-to-be-saved-by-an-ordinary-person-with-a-hidden-secret stuff

This is a really good adventure story with a remarkably well-imagined world as its setting. Some of the other species (if that’s the right word) that Molly and Oliver come across are absolutely fascinating, my particular favourites being the Steammen, sentient machines with astonishing abilities and a well-developed society of their own. There is an extensive cast of characters but these are so well-drawn that there is little danger that a reader will get confused over who’s who, and the plot comes together well without those obvious coincidences that sometimes get in the way of a good tale.

I absolutely loved this; another one of those books that I got so wrapped up in that I nearly forgot to get off the train at the right station, and when I got to the last third of the book where things really get moving I basically gave up all thoughts of doing anything else and spent a happy Sunday morning polishing the thing off.

I can really recommend this, and am looking forward to reading the next book in the sequence, though not quite yet….