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4.4 out of 5 stars17
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 March 2009
I have never felt the need to spread news of new authors beyond friends and family. I recommended Pratchett, James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, all great, great authors to family and friends. Well Stephen Hunt is up there. His books(all three in this series, although one early novel is out of print) have nods to Jules Verne, H G Wells, and the great British traditions of Science Fiction - character driven, great back story, superb use of historical parallels, and most importantly, a story that once you start it you are loathe to put down, ironically, Mr hunt is American, doing Steam punk better than anyone. I have not felt as enthused about an author since I read "In the electric mist with the confederate dead" by James Lee Burke. These books are fabulous. If you love "League of Extraordinary Gentleman" the books, not the appalling film, you will love these. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Start at book one, court of the air, and give it your full attention. There is a lot of story, but it all works out so well that you simply put the book down and sigh. In disappointment because it is over.
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I enjoyed this book thoroughly and if you are a bit of a steampunk fan then this would probably apeal to you as well. It's not completely steampunk but has many of the artifices used. Slightly more sureal and clearly based upon a Victorian England but with many of the Victorian facets stretched to their extremes. It's a good adventure yarn too. A race through forbidden lands with a band of brigands coming up against mad professor types, weird life, monsters, and treacherous companions. If I could put a mix of genres together that describe Stephen Hunt's books (the two in this series) would be steampunk, a little sci-fi, some H Rider Haggard and a liberal dose of the ghastly. I don't give it five stars because it perhaps tries too hard to be different and maybe can be a little over the top. Good book overall though for alternate history and sci-fi fans.
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on 14 August 2010
I'm a huge fan of Stephen Hunt.For me they hark back to good old fashioned sci fi in the mould of H.G.Wells and Jules Verne who's books I adore.I read each of Hunts books in a matter of days and CAN'T wait for the next installment.Love the old style drawings on the covers also,brings to mind. Strand magazine drawings.Recommend strongly.
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This is a sequel to Hunt's "The Court of the Air", taking place a few months after the earlier story ends and involving some of the same characters. It stands alone, but if you haven't read "Court" I would do so first (for a start, it is an excellent read).

Both books focus on the kingdom of Jackals, a state that bears some similarity to late 18th/ early 19th century Britain, guarded by a trusty fleet of airships from the fiendish plots of neighbouring revolutionary Quatreshift. Jackals sees itself as the beacon of liberty, but that is relative: for example, the titular King has his arms removed so that he can't lift his hands against the people.

"Court of the Air" featured an invasion of Jackals by Quatreshift, foiled by agents of the Court itself (which literally watches over Jackals) assisted by a race of steam powered robots, the oddly sympathetic steammen. Much of the action of "Kingdom", in contrast, takes place outside Jackals, on an expedition (by submarine!) to seek the ruins of a lost, peaceful civilization which it is hoped can elevate the state of the world. This trip upriver into the deep jungle has overtones of "Heart of Darkness" combined with a dollop of "The Lost World" as our heroes (and heroines) battle with a sentient vegetable empire, steammen turned savage and giant lizards. The tension increases throughout. There is a saboteur on the boat - but who is it, and what do they want?

In the second part we learn more about the true motives for the trip, and in a conclusion worthy of a James Bond film, the survival of the human race is at stake.

The world of Jackals (perhaps Earth, far in the future?) is well realised. It contains many echoes of our own (apart from the Jackals/ Quatreshift relationship) and it's fun spotting the references, but Jackals also has its own deep weirdness and twisted logic.

This is a real page turner, and I recommend it strongly.

Clearly there's scope here for many more stories (please Mr Hunt!)
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on 19 March 2009
Hunt's first book 'Court of the Air' seem to fall into that 'love it or loath it' category, and so had very mixed reviews on here. I presume people contemplating this book have already read COTA and enjoyed it.

If so you are unlikely to be disappointed with 'kingdom beyond the waves'. It offers the same breathtaking mix of wonder and nightmare and holds up a fair ground mirror to our own world and history reflecting back a place that is both alien, weird and yet strangely familiar.

Hunt does non stop action as well as anyone, it's breathless stuff but beautifully told, going up and down the action gears so smoothly you hardly notice you have crept to the edge of your seat.

The story largely drops the heroes Molly and Oliver from COTA and gives centre stage to Amelia Harsh and Commodore Black who both featured, but to a much lesser degree last time. It also introduces us to 'Furnace Breath Nick' and his able side kick Septimoth a couple of brilliant anti-heroes. They are all swept along in a story of lost civilizations, giant airships, Amazonian warrior women, rogue robots and so much more!

Then the book gives us a giant 'James Bond' climax. Time running out to save the world, heroes battling their arch enemies amid a larger battle and an arch villian seemingly unable to say 'kill them' instead opting for 'take them away'. Very 007 but with that distinctive Jackalian twist.

I love these books though appreciate they are not to everyones taste. This offering is not as grim and black as COTA, and perhaps does not manage the same ongoing level of tension, but on a big plus side now being familiar with Hunt's world I was able to race into the story full tilt without having to stumble through the first 200 pages wondering what an earth was going on.
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on 3 February 2010
Once again an excellent book from the author Stephen Hunt. The story moved quickly and the characters were well formed. Looking forward to his next book.
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on 21 October 2008
This is an amazing novel from Stephen Hunt, mixing the two key elements of a good read with flawless skill... an original and thrilling story, squirted on top of some truly brilliant writing.

As a follow-up to The Court of the Air, this novel expands the original fantasy setting of the Kingdom of Jackals and its neighbours (the Steamman Free State, Quatershift and the like), through both new and returning characters, my favourite of which was Jared Black, u-boat buccaneer and all-round rogue.

If there's ever a movie made of this novel, I could see someone like Brian Blessed playing the part of Commodore Black and Liv Tyler in the role of the female protagonist, archaeologist Amelia Harsh.

There is also a rare black humour to the novel, which leavens its page-turning pedigree, dragging you along with that fab just one more page vibe. The Kingdom Beyond the Waves also benefits from a clever cliff-hanger ending (literally).

Hunt's imagination is immensely original and enormously engaging and my main complaint is that I dare say I am going to have to wait another year for his 3rd novel to show-up on Amazon.
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on 25 December 2010
I did not entirely enjoy his first novel, however I found myself strongly wanting to read his second. I was rewarded with a fantasic tale of archaeology akin to Mr Jones and his adventures with extra excitement added. This book was fantastic, I found myself highly addicted, and entirely unable to ignore the plight of any of the characters in this book. If you have not been 100% convinced by Stephen Hunt in the past I encourage you to persevere... this book has been well worth it.. I have high expectations for his third book, I belive he gets better as he progresses through the series
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on 10 May 2016
Professor Amelia Harsh is a discredited academic, shunned by any university she could work for because of her obsession for the lost city of Camlantis which is dismissed by most as a myth. When all her other avenues dry up she grabs a lifeline from a rich industrialist to lead an expedition to find the last evidence of the city.

Meanwhile, why is someone graverobbing obsolete steamman corpses from cemetaries? And why has Furnace-breath Nick - scourge of Quatershift - been asked to break a prisoner free?

For those unfamiliar with Hunt's incredibly imaginative world - revealed in this book to likely be a far future version of our own which somehow mirrors certain aspects such as Victorian England and the French Revolution - would soon be at home in this book, particularly as half of the book involves a trip up a native-infested jungle river worthy of Conrad. Meanwhile the trail is being followed from the other end and the smoggy streets of Middlesteel in the country of Jackals by Furnace-breath Nick's not so mild manner alter ego, Cornelius Fortune.

The way the story unfolds is very reminiscent of Saturday morning serials that used to be popular when not everyone had a television. There are a series of episodes where our heroes are put into peril and yet somehow (mostly) break free. The difference is in the mostly. Hunt is not afraid of killing of a character and that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and turning the pages to see if that really was the end or there is a miraculous escape on the cards.

The inventiveness Hunt showed in The Court of the Air is very much still evident with a fiendish plot and fantastic ideas zinging off the page together with very clever dialog. Once again this is a book to read carefully and not to skim, it will be so much more rewarding.

All in all this is a stronger book than the first and the characters in it are terrific, heroes and villains alike. There are still Deus Ex Machina escapes here and there but they are on the hole consistent with the world of Jackals.

I would very much recommend this to anyone who likes their science fiction broad and heading to steam punk rather than space opera (although it's not really steam punk) and their adventure old-school swashbuckling. Terrific work.
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on 20 October 2008
I received the Kingdom Beyond the Waves last week and I pretty much read it in a single weekend - parts of the novel are incredibly exciting, other bits are poignant and bitingly satirical.

It's kind of a fantasy/scifi adventure Heart of Darkness set in what I think might be a very far-future Earth (although it could also be a standalone fantasy world, the guessing makes it fun), featuring a female Indiana Jones type character off in search of a missing civilisation to redeem her family honour - and keep down a steady job with it.

In a book overflowing with ideas, there's steam-driven robot cannibals, a u-boat press-ganged with river pirates, world changing events, city-sized airships, and the novel isn't afraid to tackle bigger issues such as the power of loss and the use (and abuse) of power.

A curious blend of page-turner with a fresh and engaging fantasy world in the Jackelian universe, I believe that Stephen Hunt's carried this tale off marvellously, and The Kingdom Beyond the Waves earns an easy five stars.
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