Captain Darian Frey, of the airship freighter Ketty Jay, is on the run. After taking a too-good-to-be-true pirating job, he and his crew of scalawags find themselves set up for murder. Now they must try to to outrun the Century Knights of the Archduke as well as the ruthless pirate Trinica Draken, who has her eyes set on the bounty and on revenge. Their only hope of refuge is the near-mythical pirate port Retribution Falls–if they can find it and if they can survive the journey.
Many reviewers have compared this book to the television series Firefly–and the comparisons are certainly apt. Both have a roguish captain, scarred by war, flying free in a bucket-of-bolts ship that he loves. Both have a rag-tag crew with foibles and secrets of their own. But, most importantly, both have an irrepressible spirit of fun and adventure that is sometimes lacking in a genre that’s been leaning toward the ponderous of late.
Wooding has created an interesting world that’s steampunk with a WWI vibe and just a hint of the supernatural. The various locales are vividly described–in fact, the only criticism I can offer is that there is no map to give the reader a better sense of place. Nevertheless, this is a world worth returning to again and again. Fortunately, there are two sequels available: The Black Lung Captain and The Iron Jackal.
Retribution Falls has a brisk pace and a strong sense of fun that draws the reader into an aerium-punk world of airship dogfights and pulpy derring-do with plenty of action and rakish charm.