Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt, a review

"TheThe Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Court of the Air was one of the better reads of my year. A gorgeously rich world, fascinating characters, and a complex story it kept me intrigued and progressively more desperate to see how it was all going to come out. This was an incredibly dense book so forgive me if the review seems a bit abstract. It’s almost impossible to write about this story without having to explain it all out and this is a book where you will want to discover the intricacies and figure things out for yourself so I did my best to give an overview of what kind of story this is and how it is written without giving anything away.

It is a high adventure story of 2 young adults being chased by nefarious powers who have designs on the ruination of the entire world, you know, the typical fantasy fare.

At first it was slightly confusing, the story jumps out of the starting gate and drops the reader into the world with nary an explanation for the vocabulary which has a Victorianesque feel. I am normally a fast reader and I had to slow below my normal pace to make sure I didn’t miss any of the subtle bits that when all combined together explained the unfamiliar world. I quite enjoyed this as it was a challenge and kept my brain working to figure out what the hell was happening, which would be frustrating and off putting for some people.

The world in which these characters live draws you in and almost leaves your neck hurting for trying to catch further glimpses at places, people and concepts that are barely brushed on. Layers upon layers of ideas, only some of which get developed and leave you wanting to know more about how this world functions. It is definitely has a strong steampunk flavor with Aerostats (zeppelins), Steammen (coal powered machine men), glass bullets housing explosive liquids and so on. The details are rich with picturesque landscapes, dastardly villains, dangerous and intricate magic systems, and warring political factions.

There are 2 protagonists in this book, Molly and Oliver. Both orphans and both being used by various powers as conduits to affect great change upon their worlds. The book has a fairly fast pace so there is some character development but not overly much. Molly develops at a great pace with information revealed steadily and her actions seeming in character. Oliver on the other hand makes leaps and bounds and by the end seems to have transformed. It’s still the same kind of person but it’s as if he’s gone from being a teenager to full blown adult of several years experience over the span of the few months that the book covers. Granted there is a plot device which gives a basis for this kind of rapid change but it is still jarring.

The narrative is told in 2 stories about the main characters that intertwine but only directly touch on a few crucial occasions. It is mostly from Molly and Oliver’s perspective but we do get a few chapters from other characters point of view which made for a varied and more interesting read. The pacing was increasingly tense and only gave a few moment of breathing room along the way, but thankfully those moments were timed nicely so it didn’t seem to be one altercation after another.

All in all this is a great book and well worth a read. The wonderful ideas and well crafted narrative style drew me in and kept me going. Be warned there is a lot of bloody and graphic death, and pretty controversial political topics, this book is not for the delicate or someone looking for an easy book. There were some character development issues but it was made up for by the excellent world building and pacing.

This isn’t a series book but there are 4 more that are set in this world and I will more then likely be picking up the second one. The world was fascinating and I would like to experience more.


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