RogerBW's Blog

Iron Jackal, Chris Wooding 30 November 2020

2011 steampunk fantasy. The misfit crew of the Ketty Jay has fame, at least a bit of fortune, and a new and exciting job… oh dear.

In terms of character development, Retribution Falls introduced each character and showed us why they're on the crew. The Black Lung Captain started to give them a bit of depth. This one, alas, is rather more about marking time: two of the crew have troubled relationships with women, both of which might work better if they could just work out that other people are not merely transactional devices to be loaded up with stuff in the good times so that they will dispense what you want when life gets tougher again. But they do not start to work this out; all they can think of to do, when they don't get what they want, is to grovel at the boots of the mysterious unknowable thing that is Woman. Various other people go through their contortions but don't really get anywhere. What should be an arc for Silo, the complicated ex-slave, turns out to leave him more or less where he started.

‘My point is…’ Crake replied, then cringed as another volley of bullets chipped along the tiles and turned a nearby cushion into a cloud of feathers. ‘My point is, I’ve noticed a certain lack of healthy cowardice in you recently, Cap’n. And I’m concerned it’s going to get someone killed before long. Specifically, me.’

But apart from that it's good fun. There's plenty of action, starting with a train robbery that goes horribly wrong, and ending in an ancient city, and at all times you can work out who's where and what's going on. If characterisation isn't deep, it's at least kept to consistently, so the ultra-cowardly guy doesn't suddenly get a streak of heroism when it's his turn to shine; instead he gets to do his thing by virtue of being cowardly.

It's not great writing. But it's good writing, it's competent writing, it doesn't leave you floundering and wondering what the hell happened or why he said that. This isn't a book or a series that I'm ever going to rave about, but I certainly found it worth the time I spent reading.

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Previous in series: The Black Lung Captain | Series: Tales of the Ketty Jay | Next in series: The Ace of Skulls

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