by Stephen Hunt

i would like to start out by saying; this book fucking tricked me.

it was a snatch & grab on the way through the fantasy section at Powell’s. by the look of this cover i was expecting a somewhat whimsical tale about orphans travelling around in a hot air balloon that they procured in some no-doubt-amusing manner and all the hilarity that would ensue as they floated around about the landscape all willy nilly. tra-la-la!


this is instead, a dark, scary, complex politico-philsophical rant of epic proportions.  it’s kinda like Dune, but with hot-air balloons instead of the Guild. plus also a lot less good.

we have: robot-people, crustaceous folks, the Fey-breed (ironically named since their traits are due to environmental exposure and not genetic in nature), worldsingers who ostensibly keep the Fey-breed in line cause they (the Fey) have scary magic-type powers and would run amok wanting… like freedom otherwise, the aristocracy, the guardians, the titualar court of the air, wolftakers,  a vallianous force to the south the “Cassarabians”, and an armless king. and i’m definitely forgetting some stuff. oh yeah, the scary locust guys who can only come through a tear in the fabric of reality when people start eating each other.

lost yet??

i will admit, the book was pretty engrossing in parts. in other places, it was just gross. like where we encounter the underground fields of people been grown for food. soylent green anyone?

mostly, it was top heavy and too ambitious for its own good. i feel like this was an epic in three parts smooshed into one overlong novel of questionable absorbability. i found myself getting to the middle of the page and saying “whaaa?” not because i couldn’t keep track of the 18 simultaneous plot lines, but because i just wasn’t interested enough to bother trying.

also, it is very clear that this author REALLY REALLY thinks socialism is a BAD THING. also, religion. and government in general.

i did make it through the whole thing, but it really became about showing this book who was boss, not because i had any real desire to see how it all turned out. and perhaps unsurprisingly, nothing really got resolved and there was a clear implication that more was to come. mercy.

this book would have been vastly improved to have lost about 9 or 12 of the subplots and just stuck to the 6 or 7 reasonably interesting main-ish plots. complexity of tale does not automatically = epic in the way that was clearly intended. creating an unnecessarily byzantine network of politico-religio-philisophic-psycho-sexual happenings & characters does not make you seem like a more gifted author capable of vision of enormous scope. it just makes you seem like you are trying REALLY HARD to look like one.

thumbs down