RogerBW's Blog

The Black Lung Captain, Chris Wooding 21 December 2017

2010 steampunk fantasy. Darian Frey is still just barely holding the airship Ketty Jay and her crew of misfits together, and once more he's going to get in way over his head.

It's been over a year since I read Retribution Falls, and I think that's probably about the right mental distance… because this is very much the same sort of story, complete with gradually increasing emotional oscillations (mild despair, mild elation, major despair, major elation, really amazingly terrible despair, etc.), and a heavy emphasis on crew as family, who are the most important things to you even if you don't always like them very much. It's feel-good reading that tries to push all the emotional buttons even if it hasn't always earned the right to do so.

There are betrayals and sudden appearances and gosh-wow moments, and more seriously there's some development of the Manes, which in the first book were mostly a zombie-style horde of inhuman killers. Frey is still the author of at least half the things wrong in his life, but he develops (to his own surprise, never mind the reader's) a remarkable nobility, apparently as the result of trying to think about what he actually wants from life. (If I have to read a mid-life crisis book, let it at least be one with airships in it!)

Each of the other characters also gets some development, some rather more than others; although it's still facile, I think this book manages to move a little beyond the basic "this bad thing happened to him so he's like this now" that was the main approach of the first volume.

Things do move a bit slowly, particularly in the first half, but overall this is a step up from the mind-candy of the first book. Followed by The Iron Jackal.

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See also:
Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding

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