Jaq D Hawkins opens up a wonderful, strange but weird, world to the reader and provides a welcome escape from the humdrum banality of everyday life. You can lose yourself in a fantasy of airships, pirates, pitchfork wielding villagers, mechanoids and battling businessmen.
No-one in their right mind would deliberately fly an airship into a storm – unless, of course, you’ve got the goddess of air travel on your side. Honestly, the plot is as daft as that – and it’s fabulous.
Anyone who loved and still remembers mad old Lionel Jeffries’ role as the eccentric grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will know what I mean. He inhabited his own crazy world and he would have loved it here. I just know he would have got on well with Captain Horatio Bonny, Merchant Airman.
And yet this is no children’s mainstream blockbuster. Oh no. Apparently it’s a Steampunk Adventure. Now I’m not going to lie to you. I had to look that up. For anyone as ignorant as me it means a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery.
This was my first Steampunk novel; immediately I'm wondering my neglect. Hawkins writing is good enough that I was unaware of reading, as the words flowed so effortlessly into the adventure. Some writers can make me feel I'm watching film, I felt that. Hawkins crafts a wonderful adventure out of her genre inspired distortion of 19th Century History. We read about a fictitious battle for wealth, conducted by industry, traders and outright crooks. In particular we observe a battle for the trade in opium and other nefarious goods between all parties from the huge East India Company, down to the lowest of pirates. We are not though, as history would lead us to expect, at sea. We are in the skies above East Anglia, London, Cornwall and eventually Paris. Pirates in airships and other inventively interpreted steam age technologies add a magical layer to Victoriana. Imagine Montgolfier balloons with wooden pirate ships as baskets. Not an exactly new artistic invention, that's true, but newly drawn. With the trade in intoxicants, the presence of spies, prostitutes, crafty merchants and a generous supply of other maverick souls we follow the in the wake of the Dragon. Some of Hawkins characters almost walk out of the words, or at least they do for me.
In a steam punk world reminiscent of Victorian London, a world where steam powered airships roam the sky and it would seam everyone and his mother succumb to the tempting embrace of opium and rum, a robbery sets the story for an adventure around the skies.
The thieves head off in their airship, captained by the incredible Captain Bonny, while the luckless Dudley, clerk of the dubious victim, Mr Wyatt gives chase.
The character of Captain Bonny is extremely well developed as he tempts the faits with his flirtations with Aide, goddess of the storm winds, always sailing a little too close to a storm so that he might feel a connection with her.
I thought this was a really well put together story that drew me along entertaining all the way. I look forward to exploring other books by this author.