Molly Templar and Jason Brooks have two things in common:
They are both orphans and they are both on the run for their
lives. Molly has to flee the scene of a brutal murder at the
brothel. Hunted by the enigmatic Count Vauxtion, Molly initially
takes refuge with Slowcogs, a mechanical Steamman. Oliver
is rescued from a similar brutal slaying by Harry Stave a
renegade agent for The Court of the Air...
The Court of the Air is a new novel by British author
Stephen Hunt, who had previously produced short stories as
well as the very well received novel For the Crown and
the Dragon (1994).
The narrative's genre is predominantly cyberpunk, which is
a fusion of technology with either a fantasy or historical
setting within which such technology would normally be deemed
anachronistic. The best-known proponent of this type of fiction
is William Gibson, who showered high praise on Hunts short
story Hollow Duellists.
It may seem odd but, if anything, the imagery in the book
reminded me very much of the Final Fantasy series of
games which has similar motifs of flying ships, underground
cities and the juxtaposition of a technology ostensibly based
on magic and one based on scientific ideology. The book also
gives more than just a nod to the work of animation director
Hayao Miyazaki, once again for the flying ship, but more importantly
for the images of flying Islands.
Although the book differs from the usual Campbell hero motif,
in that it has two protagonists, it still pretty much follows
the pattern of young orphan who has a secret past and an important
destiny, who is taken on a journey of discovery, with the
eventual showdown with the forces of evil. If you pay attention
to what you are reading you don't have to get too far into
the book to work out what is happening.
This is not to say that this is not a book worth reading.
For the most part this is a very well written and engaging
story. It does have some weaknesses, predominantly around
Hunt's desire to rename just about anything he can think of.
For some it will enhance the idea of a completely different
environment, with its own customs and history. Personally,
I spent too much time being jerked out of the narrative and
so found this exceptionally disruptive. At points, there are
so many unnecessary new names for recognisable objects that
the book almost became as impenetrable as Chaucer. Not even
Tolkien, who succeeded in creating one of the most complete
worlds, felt the need to rename so many concepts and objects.
The plot has some interesting twists and turns. Whilst the
general structure is as old as the hills, this does not detract,
from what is ultimately an enjoyable yarn. Plots are like
jokes - if you study them enough you get to realise that there
are only so many - and the orphan into hero is popular with
just about every culture and time.
So if you have some time to while away some time exploring
the world of Molly and Oliver, then generally I think you
are going to find this a rewarding experience. Just don't
get bogged down with the terminology.