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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Ripping Yarn
Trust your whims. I picked this up on a whim and was mightily pleased.

Set on a near earth in a steam-driven, difference engine-run victorian-ish empire, Court of the Air follows the trials, tribulations and finally exultations of two orphans, Molly and Oliver. They experience great heroism and great evil,see the exploits of man, crab-man, mole-man and...
Published on 11 Aug 2010 by Mr. R. J. Wright

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Explosion of ideas
Im an avid fan of fantasy books and steam punk is a new avenue of exploration for me. The ideas behind this book are myriad and fantastic but they explode in all directions. It is a very hard book to read with often difficult transition from one plot line to another. For a first book in a series it should have done more to set the scene and explain the baseline of the...
Published on 21 Sep 2011 by E. Martin


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Ripping Yarn, 11 Aug 2010
By 
This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
Trust your whims. I picked this up on a whim and was mightily pleased.

Set on a near earth in a steam-driven, difference engine-run victorian-ish empire, Court of the Air follows the trials, tribulations and finally exultations of two orphans, Molly and Oliver. They experience great heroism and great evil,see the exploits of man, crab-man, mole-man and steam-man, travel from one end of the empire to the other and finally realise their true potential.

Okay, so far, so familiar, and perhaps that is part of it's appeal. The wheel has not been reinvented, but the finish is nice and there's something very chunky about it. For a steampunk fantasy, this has it all, shatring a kinship with the work of Mieville and Reeve but not being as dark as former or teen orientated as the latter. There is brutality; there is levity; there is some pretty amusing wit and oodles of retro tech and high magic.

The pace is cracking for a book this size and though some of the characters transitions feel a little too abrupt there is some good development going on here and the last battle is a doozy, even if the ending is taken out of the hands of mortals - but the clue was in the name of the machine, wasn't it?

Yes, it does borrow heavily from Wells, Verne, Tolkien and Burroughs, but it's good fun and lovingly crafted. China Mieville may have beaten him to the punch, but it is a rare occurence that sees me refusing to do anything else (eat, sleep, other functions) until I have completed a book. Good fun, what what?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed genius, 23 Feb 2009
This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
Wow! There is so much to love about this book. It's fast paced, action packed, crammed full with great ideas and big personalities and has a real emotional roller coaster of a story.

All of that is waiting to be discovered and enjoyed the only problem is you are thrown headlong into the alien world (a kind of steam driven sc-fi Victorian world) without guide, map, briefing or translator. The first 200 pages were like hacking through a near impenitrable forest with a pen knife!. As nothing is explained to the reader you have to figure everything out yourself which is initially exhausting.

However once you have got your bearings and sussed out the terminology you emerge from the forest onto a truly awe inspiring landscape, magician's, robots, spies, an airborne navy, revolutionaries, superheroes, full pitched battles, underground cities, floating cities... I could go on, safe to say there is plenty happening! and all at a breathless, break neck hurtling pace. A real page turner.

Do not be fooled by the jolly Phileas Fogg cover either, this is a grim and dark adult/teen story, not a children story. I won't even try to give you a plot synopsis but the action revolves around two teenage orphans who are sucked into a battle for the very earth itself. However there is a huge cast list of support charactors and it was here I found the most endearing personalities.

I really feel a glossory would have helped and I am amazed it hasn't got one and this omission along with for me a slightly disappointing final show down with the chief baddy is all that stopped it getting a full 5 stars and I will be buying the next in the series fairly shortly! which is supposed to be even better.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, inventive read, 16 Jun 2010
By 
GM Jones (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
Stephen Hunt's "The Court of The Air" has been out for some time now, but until recently I've been put off reading it by negative comments and often mixed reviews. Well, I finally took the plunge and, while I can see how it might not be for everyone, what's certain is that it's definitely for me.

I read this 600-page beast in 3 days flat (Admittedly I don't have much of a life). It's a dizzying joy of a novel, a colourful mish-mash of ideas and influences of such startling vividness that at times it was like a splash of cold water in the face.

Needless to say, I loved this novel.

The background concerns the two rival countries of Jackals and Quatershift, which are ruled by twisted parodies of real political systems - One a cruel kind of constitutional monarchy, the kind that nobody would want to be monarch of, the other an extreme form of Communism which takes the concept of "equality for all" to insane and gruesome lengths. Add to this a touch of the French Revolution and the English civil war, a free state of intelligent steam-powered robots (often the most sympathetic characters), some secret police, a mutating/superpower bestowing fog known as "feymist" (Which may also be the entrance to another reality), Long-dead, subterranean Aztec-style civilizations with ancient insect gods (Who want to come back), bizarre land disturbances known as "floatquakes" which send sections of land bouncing upwards into space(!), Dickensian squalor, a touch of social commentary, and quite a lot else - in fact, so much idea and invention it's impossible to mention it all in one review - all funnelled through a comparatively straightforward plot about two fugitive orphans with a destiny, a grand political conspiracy, and a Crown Prince who doesn't want to have his arms chopped off come Coronation day.

In short, it's bonkers. And utterly, utterly brilliant.

Admittedly the book can be a bit of a challenge, at least initially. No, not much is explained, and the author does require you to do some of the work yourself, but that's fine and a perfectly acceptable way to write. Perhaps readers who expect to be spoonfed, expect novels to be like a form of text television where no thought is required on the part of the audience, will be disappointed, but I didn't mind at all. I had no trouble understanding any of the concepts, the plot or what the overarching themes were. I was never confused and never bored, not for a moment. And I make no claims to genius.

Having said that, a little more physical description could have come in handy on occasion, as I sometimes had trouble visualising objects, people and settings from Hunt's terse one-line sketches.

Also, something I only noticed after reading it is that it's an oddly asexual novel. Not only is there no romance, (Which I was a little disappointed about as I was expecting fireworks when Molly and Oliver finally met) but as far as I can remember very few, if any, of the characters in the book had a wife or a husband or a significant other of any kind. Not a criticism as such, but something I found a little odd in retrospect.

But overall I'm happy to say, after Having finally gotten around to reading this, I'll be buying the other three (so far) in this series and devouring them all in one enormous book-based gulp. I've just discovered my new favourite author.

Don't let the nay-sayers put you off - if you like fantasy fiction and don't mind a read that challenges you, crack this open as soon as you can get your hands on it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Explosion of ideas, 21 Sep 2011
By 
E. Martin (Romford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
Im an avid fan of fantasy books and steam punk is a new avenue of exploration for me. The ideas behind this book are myriad and fantastic but they explode in all directions. It is a very hard book to read with often difficult transition from one plot line to another. For a first book in a series it should have done more to set the scene and explain the baseline of the concepts. The story plot was confusing and jumping all over the place. On a number of occasions I found that the story line had changed tack and was talking about different people but my mind was still linked to the previous chapter. I have never had this problem with other authors . Like other comments a map would have been really good as well as a glossary of the invented technical terms. The ideas would make a great film or even an interesting "wargame" scenario that would appeal to either computer or miniature gamers. It has great potential and needs a better structure and flow to it. I will try the second book in the series just to give it a fair chance.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confusing, 17 Feb 2010
By 
simon211175 (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Court of the Air (Hardcover)
It seems the opinions are divided where this book is concerned. Almost as many hating it as love it. I wanted to love it, I really did. The ideas were all there, somewhere; the steam driven robots; the boy with magical powers, who thinks he's normal; the secret police force, complete with rogue agents; and of course the revolutionaries set out to overthrow everyone. It had the potential to be a very good opener to the series.

As it turned out, this book goes down as one of the very few books I've not managed to finish. I hate to leave a book unfinished, but I read 500 pages of this and still had very little idea about who was who and what their role in the story was.

I should have loved this. It possibly contains everything I wanted in a book, and although I came away feeling that there IS a great story in here, my copy had the pages in completely the wrong order.

I won't be reading anything more from Stephen Hunt, and I am actually a bit disappointed in that - I still think the series has potential to be great, but not if the story flows as badly as this one.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There's a story in there somewhere, 3 Feb 2009
By 
Hugh Sutherland "hughs1206" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
I've had this book for a long time, initially drawn to the synopsis on the back cover it has lingered on my shelf due to the not so positive feedback from friends and the reviews on Amazon. I finally decided to read the book and am glad that I did, however I am more pleased that I've finished it.

There is no doubt that the imagination behind its construct is admirable. The creation of the Fey and the Worldsingers are particularly interesting, however the trouble is that it is all very confusing. I found that the majority of the time I was only getting the gist of the story but not understanding the full picture. Whilst the Kingdom of the Jackals may be clear to the author it is not so for the reader. There is no easy access to this world and you are presented with different races, places and a complex history of it's time and people all of which are poorly explained. It seems the author assumes that you will fully understand and accept what is presented, however this is not the case.

I really tried to understand but found that I failed to keep up with it's relentless pace. I was unsure as to who was fighting whom and for what reason. The book would have served better had it been the climax of a series, with the reader already having a full understanding of the world the author created but as a first book it is a world unto itself.

Whilst I wouldn't tell anyone not to read this book I would suggest approaching it with caution and to read all the reviews on Amazon to get a good indication of what the book may hold.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fizzing with invention, 20 Sep 2007
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
This is an excellent book, a real page turner, depicting an intricate war between (fairly absolute) evil and (more than slightly grubby) good. The fictional world is vividly constructed and utterly convincing. The Kingdom of Jackals and its enemy, revolutionary Quatreshift, rather resemble late 18th century Britain and France in politics and general situation - Jackals defended by its navy of trusty airships, Quatreshift bleeding as enemies of the people are liquidated by the Gideon's Collar. But both states have much more to them than that, and older things sleep (or not) deep beneath Jackals, waiting to be summoned.

Through this bizarre world we follow the adventures of Molly and Oliver, orphans, whose special talents make them targets for the underground evil. We also meet a race of noble steam powered robots, and a covert organisation - the eponymous Court - dedicated to preserving Jackals. It all culminates in an epic battle involving gods, revolutionaries, human and fey armies, the Steammen and more (with some echoes of Philip Pullman - but although this is emphatically not a His Dark Materials clone).

There is much, much more. My only reservation - and why I give it four stars rather than five - is that perhaps there is too much for all the elements to be knitted together properly. The Court, for example, really only plays a peripheral role, and other themes and characters (such as the Observer and her bullish colleague) don't really serve much purpose. I think the material could have been better served if it had been used for two or even three books. Perhaps there will be a sequel? (Refreshingly, there is no and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after - once their temporary alliance to save the world end, the central characters pursue wildly different courses and are bound to come into conflict).

But please don't be put off by that minor quibble. Do buy this book, it's vastly entertaining and a rivetting good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a real struggle to wade through, 2 Dec 2013
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Court of the Air (Hardcover)
This is a fast moving steampunk novel packed with interesting ideas and concepts. But sadly it is like a meal that has all the right ingredients but is put together in such a way as to make it inedible.

This is a story of revolution, steam driven creatures, airships and orphans finding they are more than they thought. And all that sounded fun. Until I started reading it and it became a real ordeal to struggle though. Not enough is explained, the characters are not developed, the background is weak, the writing too jumbled, I could go on and on. The book definitely went on and on. I hate to give up on a book but came very close with this one, especially with the length of close to 600 pages. And at times I had no idea what was going on and I am not convinced the author did either.

It does appear to be a `marmite' book, dividing opinion between those that loved this and those that found it a frustrating slog. I actually like marmite, but I really didn't like this. There are quite a few in the series but I can't face any more..
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read, 17 Jan 2008
By 
Sue Moore "Sue" (Milton Keynes, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Court of the Air (Paperback)
Just finished with the Court of the Air and I have to say, it was a very fun (and quick read), the fast-pacing of the prose making it a real page turner for me.

There's an incredible lot of imagination gone into this novel and it lends the work a depth of world-building which only a few books in the fantasy genre can manage.

This is also the novel's slight weakness (hence the five rather than six stars), in that the richness of the world has a way of spilling over into the character development - but the rapid snap snap snap of the plot's excitement is enough to overcome this and made it one of the highlights of my reading year for me.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steamin' along with Mollie and Ollie, 8 April 2007
This review is from: The Court of the Air (Hardcover)
Two orphans find themselves on the run from the authorities. Molly might be called a feisty and defensive redhead. She has her reasons. As a baby she was unceremoniously dumped on the step of the Poorhouse. She's been in trouble almost ever since. The Beadle despairs of getting his graft from her as he sends her out on yet another job.

Oliver is also a strange boy. Found after five years inside the Fey mist he has been monitored ever since by the Worldsingers. Somehow he has always avoided being taken away to the Asylum or to become one of the Special Guard with a restraining torc. Oliver has his secrets not least his dreams being invaded by the Whisperer, a tortured fey-altered man secured inside the Hawklam Asylum. But it is only when the disreputable Harry Stave arrives that Oliver finds his old life is over and he is on the run whilst hardly knowing why.

The world presented through this novel is at once familiar and yet comprehensively different to our own. The opening pages did not give any clues to the environment we have entered. Teasingly, Molly is presented as little Orphan Annie complete with the defiant personality that marks her out as trouble with a capital T.

A great deal of thought has gone into creating a fantastical yet believable background to the adventures. The backdrop is at least as important as a character and it has to be a smooth transition from our world to theirs. This one packs in pneumatic towers, mechanical men and everyone's favourite aerostats. Our world is safe and boring in comparison for this is a desperate place where even the word constitutional monarchy is a vicious understatement of the ghastly truth. Hunt has included another favourite of fantasy writers the availability of crystal grids and the treatment of the land as a living entity and this conception of the background is a intricate and involving process so that we can drop painlessly into this world and feel almost comfortable.

So to the cast of characters who are linked by necessity and drawn to each other as the plot progresses. There are quite a few of them and teasing out the links takes thought. Supporting cast is neatly drawn and although time is short with them there is enough there to get a feel for who they might be. The main characters are harder with the necessary internalisation developing more towards the end of the novel. I feel they have a lot of growing to do and they may need some further time to do that.

I liked the world that this novel is set in. Its danger and despair tempered by the exhilaration of the battle. Hunt is not afraid to decimate his characters either and there is no mincing about with this. It is a gutsy and full-blooded story with some pretty nasty detail unflinchingly presented. There are some superb larger than life characters and also the quiet and unassuming steam-men on whom so much hangs.

Whilst this is a tale of derring-do it does not concentrate on swords and sorcery. There is some sparkling witty dialogue and coy politicking too. There is noble sacrifice and the bloody nose of defeat. I enjoyed it so much I read it twice. Both a tale of great adventure and a dark comment on the danger of fundamental politics; take from it what you want or what you need.
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The Court of the Air
The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt (Paperback - 3 Sep 2007)
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