Archive for October 24th, 2012

Stephen Hunt – The Court Of The Air

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

In the Jackelian series by Stephen Hunt I had started with the fourth novel so I was quite interested in how the first would turn out. As it is, The Court Of The Air (2007) presented a quite different experience while certain elements remained the same. To be precise, this is a steampunk novel with elements of science fiction and fantasy. In this novel, the fantasy element is quite strong as a lot of things happen that cannot be explained scientifically (easily) as many other things.

If one wants to compare the style and worldbuilding of the Jackelian series I would describe it as a lighter and traditional version of China Mieville‘s Crobuzon novels. It has a similar technological approach, although the technology is in many places quite different and The Court Of The Air has strong fantasy elements. What is similar is the metropolis setting and the odd mixture of races. There is great diversity of cultures while Hunt has succeeded into mixing them together in a fitting way. It is a good thing that I like those Crobuzon novels so it was easy to adapt to the world of Jackals. Hunt created more recognizable characters to which the reader can connect more easily and his story follows a more traditional plot development. This does not make it more predictable. It just puts the reader in a more comfortable position.

The story consists of two storylines. The narrative is told from the main character of each while Hunt often adds other viewpoints to provide a greater perspective for the story so that the reader gets everything that is happening. The often quick changing of viewpoints also provides┬áminor cliffhangers to push the reader on and a change in rhythm to keep the reader’s interest sharp. The characters themselves are sympathetic and Hunt made them so that they easily avoid the typical tropes while having the familiar feeling to them. The story itself is neither light or grim while having moments of both. As such it is well balanced.

As I had expected the story is a standalone one and is completed in one book. Nevertheless Hunt manages to pack in plenty of plot development, action and twists. He doesn’t waste more time on scenes than necessary and moves the story on if nothing happens in between scenes. In between he manages to provide characterization and background for many sidecharacters which plays minor role in one of the scenes. This way they all come to life even though we don’t see most of them later anymore.

The story is not flawless although they are all of a minor nature. Most readers would probably not even notice them as they are to entranced by the story. The only thing that nagged me a bit was that one minor storyline somewhat disappeared after about a third of the novel while I had expected it to become more prominent.

I was quite satisfied after completing the novel. My impression of the fourth novel made me decide to get the other 5 current novels of the series and I have certainly not wasted my money. A great story with great character and a Mieville-vibe that avoides the mainstream tropes while still following a more traditional plot development. I can only recommend this one highly.