RogerBW's Blog

By Fire Above, Robyn Bennis 05 October 2018

2018 steampunk SF, second of the Signal Airship series. The war continues, and Josette Dupre, captain of the scouting airship Mistral, will go on fighting it… if she can survive the politics of her own side.

There's rather less airshipping going on in this second volume; the first part is largely politics and refitting, with occasional moments of shiphandling, and the second largely deals with a resistance movement inside an enemy-held town, and the fight on the ground to take that town back. Neither of these is bad; indeed, they're very effective. But they're not airship action.

"Let's give the crew leave to enjoy the city. You too, Ensign. I'd say you've earned a day off."

Kember looked back at Mistral's crew, already tending toward the rowdy side, and they hadn't even been given leave yet. "How, uh, how much should they enjoy themselves, sir?"

Josette considered it, and said, "Let's keep it to wanton drunkenness and petty vandalism. No fights. We start repairs as soon as the surveyors finish cataloging the damage, so we want everyone intact."

On the people side, it's great. There are no simple answers to questions of relationships or politics (and both of those seem to involve a certain amount of abuse of power too), and everyone has to think about what they're doing. There's even a welcome poke at the Dead Lesbians trope.

A few new characters bring new viewpoints and opportunities, but mostly the cast feels rather smaller than in the first book; there's less mention of the airship's crew. And one secondary character's key moment of traumatic decision is written with a curious inclarity, so that one can't work out just what is happening where or just what form her decision takes – only the result.

"But sir! We never tested it!"

"Ensign?" Josette asked.

"Yes, sir?"

"I'll have less pessimism on the hurricane deck, please."

"Yes, sir."

Definitely don't start the series here, especially if you came for the airships, but it's enjoyable as a continuation of the first book's story. No sequel has been announced at the time of writing, but there's clearly scope for one, with little resolution of the major arcs.

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Previous in series: The Guns Above | Series: Signal Airship

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