Stephen Hunt – The Rise Of The Iron Moon

In the first two books of the steampunk Jackelian series Stephun Hunt started with a strong fantasy component in the story, followed by a strong science fiction component in the next story. In his third novel, The Rise Of The Iron Moon (2009), he mixed both components all out together where it gets hard to discern one from the other. He also decided to give the story a different approach than before. Unfortunately these two things were a bad choice.

I really liked the first two books, and also the fourth as I read that one before them. Hunt created well-constructed plots with engaging albeit traditional stories and interesting characters which he developed quite well. He wrote within a complex framework that with all its weird elements worked well together. In The Rise Of The Iron Moon Hunt takes up another traditional story and again tries to give it his own twist. The way he approaches it however breaks completely out of his well established framework. Basically it comes down to “anything goes”. This pretty much destroys the coherency of the plot. It is full with flaws and inconsistencies. I will not go into details as there are plenty and I don’t want to spoil.

The sad thing is that Hunt was unable to get out of his story under control. His attempts to keep it going resulted in the story becoming predictable. You can see the twists coming far ahead and those you don’t see are quite ridiculous. In my review of the second book, The Kingdom Beyond The Waves, I noted Hunt needed to watch out for rehashing plot components and in this book he does so again. Only due to the very different plot development he avoids some.

What I disliked about the novel was its tone. In his other novels Hunt played to the emotion of the reader with times of excitement, drama, worries and grins. This is all gone in this book. It is over the top, much to dramatic and the whole story is depressing all through. I had a hard time getting to the end and didn’t really want to finish it, because I was getting tired of the whole plot development. There was no fun, it was not grim or engaging. It was a struggle. I can say I’ve read worse stories so I can handle quite a bit. The only thing that kept me going was Hunt’s fine prose. His style had not changed so the overall atmosphere was still the same. It’s pretty much the only positive remark I can make.

One of Hunt’s strong points is his characterization. He gives his (side-)characters time to present themselves. This element was also pretty much lost in the story. He re-used several old characters which he didn’t feel like introducing again, although he seems to aim at writing standalone novels in the same universe, and most of the new characters didn’t get much time to settle down. They remained rather one-dimensional.

A big problem to his story is that it’s told as if it is the end of a series, a big final. Of course I already know there are 3 more books of which I’ve read the next one and that story is written as if nothing has happened before while the impact of the story of The Rise Of The Iron Moon is huge. You can guess I was quite baffled when early on in the book the story took its approach to anything goes, unless the next novels takes place before the events of The Rise Of The Iron Moon.

I don’t really understand why Hunt wrote such a story for The Rise Of The Iron Moon when in the next novel he returns to the approach of the first two novels and regains the same high quality I enjoyed. I am happy that Hunt aims at writing standalone novels because this means that previous events don’t play a big role in the other novels. I can thus advise readers to simply skip this novel when reading the series as it will not affect the others and you can avoid damaging your reading pleasure of this series. I finished it only so I could review it wholly, because I really felt like putting it aside and going to the next one. This one is not recommended.

 

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