Friday, 21 October 2011

Something For The Weekend: Tales of the Ketty Jay

 There are few books that defy categorisation quite like Chris Wooding's novels about Captain Darian Frey and his crew. Not classic Science Fiction (no space ships, no colonists, no zap guns), not Fantasy (no wizards, no elves) and not Steampunk (no Zeppelins here, the aircraft are instead powered by aerium gas) -- so what are these strange stories?

Fun. In a word. Wooding's books are fast-paced, teeth-rattling affairs full of sky pirates, dysfunctional rogues and down-at-heel nobles. With breath-taking dog-fights, brutal brawls and desperate shoot-outs there's plenty to keep a reader on the edge of his or her seat. That the Ketty Jay novels have plenty of easy charm doesn't hurt either.

Retribution Falls (2009) introduces the reader to the foolhardy, womanising and down-on-his luck Frey. The crew of the Ketty Jay are hardly a tight-knit bunch though. From the boozy Malvery to the mysterious Navvie, Jez, the ship really does serve as a portable rogues gallery. And their luck takes a turn for the worst when they are framed for destroying a ship during a heist gone wrong. Captain Frey has to draw on every resource to prove his innocence.

The Black Lung Captain (2010) presents the crew with a dangerous mission far away on a remote island, working with Captain Grist. Forced to take the job out of desperation, Captain Frey quickly regrets accepting the assignment and realises there's much more at stake than a a lost artifact, including the lives of his crew, who he has grown rather fond of. The Black Lung Captain twists and turns and the chapters end on the sort of cliffhangers that will keep you up long after bedtime.

This year Wooding gives us The Iron Jackal (2011). Captain Frey has plenty of reasons to feel good about himself: his ship has been patched up extensively, his crew have laid to rest their demons (mostly) and he's even a little famous. And for the right reasons. So why is he so far from home in Samarla, the land of their ancient enemies? And why has he taken a job from the dread-pirate Queen, Trinica Dracken (his ex fiancee)? 

Each book can be read alone, but it really is worth taking the time to read them in order and see the crew bond together as Captain Frey denies his more self-destructive urges.

The Iron Jackal is out now.
The Black Lung Captain is part of Blackwell's 3 for 2 promotion.

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