Monday, 14 March 2011

Review | Retribution Falls - Chris Wooding

Before I even talk about its merit, let me just say that it involves airships. Retro-fantasy airships in a world that's very reminiscent of steampunk. How can you not like the worldbuilding? Aside from that, Retribution Falls is something rare: fantasy that is above all, fun, but still has the depth of Woodings' previous novels. No, it's not fantastically deep, nor tragic: but who cares?

Darien Frey is captain of the Ketty Jay: a ship who, if truth be told, he likes far better than his crew - in the first chapter, he happily lets a smuggler hold a gun to his passenger's forehead without even thinking of giving up the ignition codes. That's Frey, and his crew aren't much better. Together, they're a craft of unsuccessful bandits, smugglers and general lowlife who can barely scrape together the money to stay up in the air: but Frey's been offered a job. The biggest job of his life. You, as the reader might suspect something - because Wooding's not going to let Frey get away with his fortune. And you'd be right! The craft he robs was rigged to blow, and Frey's no longer an aerium-poor bottom feeder: he's aerium-low public enemy number one. Blamed for the murder of the Archduke's heir, carrying a fugitive daemonologist, Frey and his crew have to prove their innocence. And it is awesome - how else can one describe a succession of swordfights with a daemon-infused cutlass, piracy, mad dogfights and dark humour galore?

It pulls off the fun fantastically, as you can see! So, what about the depth? Well, Retribution Falls manages quite a bit of character development: Frey and his tiny crew join together in the pursuit, and Frey learns from his mistakes. The development of one character is a little forced - but apart from that, Wooding pulls it off superbly.

The worldbuilding's done well as well: what glimpses we see of the world are filtered through the characters' perceptions, and nowhere does the author give in top the urge to infodump. No big chunks of exposition here! Daemonism's also a fun system of magic - it's pseudoscience, and used rarely enough to make it both interesting, useful, and essentially unpredictable. Its dangers are also shown well, and it does have a visible cost - as we can see from the character of Crake.
All in all, Retribution Falls is amusement with some depth as well: a fast-paced treat of airship battles, rabid piracy and widespread amusement.