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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Book Notes No. 25 : The Court of the Air, Stephen Hunt

When streetwise Molly Templar witnesses a brutal murder at the brothel she has recently apprenticed to, her first instinct is to scurry back to the poorhouse where she grew up. But there she finds her fellow orphans butchered, and it slowly dawns on her that she was the real target of the attack.

Oliver Brooks has led a sheltered existence in the backwater home of his merchant uncle. But when he is framed for his only relative's murder he is forced to flee for his life, accompanied by an agent of the mysterious Court of the Air.

Molly and Oliver each carry secrets in their blood - secrets that will either get them killed or save the world from an ancient terror...

In Stephen Hunt's immensely inventive novel, The Court of the Air, we have the thinly-disguised English (the Jackelians) fighting for their lives and their way of life. The country is threatened, nay, overrun, by Quatershiftians, from a country immediately to the south, and with a record of popular uprising featuring the Gideon's Collar as the scourge of the ruling classes (for which read Madame la Guillotine only more so). To the north, the Scots have been replaced by a kingdom of conservative but brave-hearted Steammen, and deep beneath the heroes' feet lies a terror that owes much to the religious practices of Mexico's ancient Mayans.

The novel swirls downwards and outwards from an interesting beginning. It is part rite de passage, part spy thriller, part political commentary, part fantasy thriller. Throughout as I read, I searched for a key to what Hunt was trying to say, and only late in the book I realised that he had concealed it right there on page nine :



"Every few decades a foreign power would mistake the Jackelians' quiet taste for the rule of law for the absence of ambition. Would mistake a content and isolationist bent for a weak and decadent society. Would come to the conclusion that a nation of shopkeepers might better be put to serving what they had built, made and grown to warriors and bullies. Many enemies had made the assumption that prefers not to fight equates to can't fight and won't fight. All had been punished severely for it. Slow to rouse, once they were, their foes ... found a pit of lions, a people with a hard, unruly, thuggish streak and no tolerance for bullies..."



The rest of the book tells the sorry tale of what happens when the people of Jackals are too slow to rouse.

It's a cautionary tale.

4 comments:

ladyfi said...

Sounds fascinating. Did you enjoy it?

Alan Burnett said...

This is the kind of book I would not normally touch in a hundred years. It is just not my genre and sometimes I think I am too old to try something new. But I suppose the real problem is that I know nothing about the genre and therefore don't know the best place to jump in and explore. Your review will give me a stating point so the next time I am in the bookshop, who knows, I might just take the plunge.

Louise said...

Hi Alan, and welcome -- glad you liked the 'review' -- read a couple of pages before you buy -- it's not to everyone's taste. :-)

Mornin' Lady Fi : Did I enjoy it? Well, it's not Ken Follett (review coming soon), and some of the more gory scenes had me skimming for something less stomach-turning, but I finished it and I brought a message away from it. Let's say it surprised me!

Caution Flag said...

I'm going to pretend that I'm not old enough to read any cautionary tale - especially one with gore. Waiting for the Follett review :)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Book Notes No. 25 : The Court of the Air, Stephen Hunt

When streetwise Molly Templar witnesses a brutal murder at the brothel she has recently apprenticed to, her first instinct is to scurry back to the poorhouse where she grew up. But there she finds her fellow orphans butchered, and it slowly dawns on her that she was the real target of the attack.

Oliver Brooks has led a sheltered existence in the backwater home of his merchant uncle. But when he is framed for his only relative's murder he is forced to flee for his life, accompanied by an agent of the mysterious Court of the Air.

Molly and Oliver each carry secrets in their blood - secrets that will either get them killed or save the world from an ancient terror...

In Stephen Hunt's immensely inventive novel, The Court of the Air, we have the thinly-disguised English (the Jackelians) fighting for their lives and their way of life. The country is threatened, nay, overrun, by Quatershiftians, from a country immediately to the south, and with a record of popular uprising featuring the Gideon's Collar as the scourge of the ruling classes (for which read Madame la Guillotine only more so). To the north, the Scots have been replaced by a kingdom of conservative but brave-hearted Steammen, and deep beneath the heroes' feet lies a terror that owes much to the religious practices of Mexico's ancient Mayans.

The novel swirls downwards and outwards from an interesting beginning. It is part rite de passage, part spy thriller, part political commentary, part fantasy thriller. Throughout as I read, I searched for a key to what Hunt was trying to say, and only late in the book I realised that he had concealed it right there on page nine :



"Every few decades a foreign power would mistake the Jackelians' quiet taste for the rule of law for the absence of ambition. Would mistake a content and isolationist bent for a weak and decadent society. Would come to the conclusion that a nation of shopkeepers might better be put to serving what they had built, made and grown to warriors and bullies. Many enemies had made the assumption that prefers not to fight equates to can't fight and won't fight. All had been punished severely for it. Slow to rouse, once they were, their foes ... found a pit of lions, a people with a hard, unruly, thuggish streak and no tolerance for bullies..."



The rest of the book tells the sorry tale of what happens when the people of Jackals are too slow to rouse.

It's a cautionary tale.

4 comments:

ladyfi said...

Sounds fascinating. Did you enjoy it?

Alan Burnett said...

This is the kind of book I would not normally touch in a hundred years. It is just not my genre and sometimes I think I am too old to try something new. But I suppose the real problem is that I know nothing about the genre and therefore don't know the best place to jump in and explore. Your review will give me a stating point so the next time I am in the bookshop, who knows, I might just take the plunge.

Louise said...

Hi Alan, and welcome -- glad you liked the 'review' -- read a couple of pages before you buy -- it's not to everyone's taste. :-)

Mornin' Lady Fi : Did I enjoy it? Well, it's not Ken Follett (review coming soon), and some of the more gory scenes had me skimming for something less stomach-turning, but I finished it and I brought a message away from it. Let's say it surprised me!

Caution Flag said...

I'm going to pretend that I'm not old enough to read any cautionary tale - especially one with gore. Waiting for the Follett review :)