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The Kingdom Beyond the Waves Hardcover – 6 May 2008
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Praise for The Court of the Air:
‘An inventive, ambitious work, full of wonders and marvels’ Lisa Tuttle, The Times
‘The characters are convincing and colourful, but the real achievement is the setting, a hellish take on Victorian London … the depth and complexity of Hunt’s vision makes it compulsive reading for all ages’ Guardian
‘Wonderfully assured … Hunt knows what his audience like and gives it to them with a sardonic wit and carefully developed tension’ Time Out
‘Studded with invention’ Independent
‘Rich and colourful … keeps you engrossed … a confident, audacious novel’ SFX
‘Like a magpie, Stephen Hunt has plucked colourful events from history and politics and used them for inspiration … Hunts tells his full-blooded tale with lip-smacking relish, revealing a vivid, often gruesome imagination … ‘The Court of the Air’ brims with originality and, from the first, its chase-filled plot never lets up’ Starburst
‘The best book of 2007 … Think Joan Aiken for grown-ups, with echoes of Susanna Clarke … hugely enjoyable’ Historical Novels Review
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Top customer reviews
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!)
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.