Chris Wooding is a British writer who has published several novels in many different genres. I would say his best known works are the epic fantasy novel The Ember Blade and his sci-fi steampunk series Tales of the Ketty Jay starting with Retribution Falls published in 2009. The best way I can describe this novel to a new reader is a fun, swashbuckling sky pirate adventure with several well developed characters, and a vast world to explore while feeling small at the same time. Chris Wooding has a very smooth writing style with a witty sense of humor that just pops off the page. The pacing in this novel is also lighting fast and it is surprising to me that this series is not as popular as it should be. Lets take a journey on board the Ketty Jay!
The characters we follow at this journey are the crew members of the Ketty Jay and its captain Darian Frey. Fate has not been kind to the captain or his motley crew as they are all running from something. Crake is a demonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by the guilt of his past. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Frey and the crew of the Ketty Jay are suddenly public enemy number one of the Coalition navy with officers and contractors on his tail. Fortunately for Frey, he discovers that the cargo freighter was rigged to exploded and he is being framed. He must race against the clock to save his crew and spoils from the royal navy before it is too late.
As you can probably tell by this point, the characters are what drives this story. Each member of the crew holds a dark secret and it was both exciting and in some cases frightening to learn what skeletons the crew holds in their closets. The world building is also a big driving force for this novel as we get to experience several different races and cultures with the ever present political maneuvering happening in the background, but it is very important to the plot. Oh, and did I forget to mention that there are airship battles expertly written and made me feel like I was in the cockpit with the crew. The story is so well written that I had completely forgotten that I was reading a sci-fi novel as it felt like I was watching a live action movie.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, Retribution Falls was so much fun to read and all sci-fi and fantasy fans can and will enjoy it. Chris Wooding is a fantastic author whom I feel has been under the radar in recent years. Retribution Falls was put on the short-list for the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award and from this point on, Chris Wooding has never looked back. Reading the Tales of the Ketty Jay has brought many smiles and joy to me over the years and I hope it will bring you joy as well this Holiday season.
Thank you Chris Wooding for a smashing adventure and God bless!