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Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

01/09/2009. Contributed by Ewan Angus

Buy Retribution Falls in the USA - or Buy Retribution Falls in the UK

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pub: Gollancz. 415 page enlarged paperback. Price: 12.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08515-2.

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I have always enjoyed Chris Wooding's books and his fictional timelines have had me return to his books on more than one occasion. His eloquent flowing style lends itself well to a fast-paced adventure novel that really does live up to the hype that has surrounded it since its release.

Wooding's newest tale follows the rough, selfish layabout Darian Frey, general whore and owner of his own flying ship. Taking us through his own personal, imaginary and sometimes very real demons, 'Retribution Falls' takes a steampunk look at the old pirate yarns and fires them into the sky. The steampunk ships and subsequent crew-like atmosphere have garnered comparisons with the defunct but beautiful 'Serenity', but in almost everyone's case, this is a good thing.

The airships themselves are described sharply and precisely, their fictional controls and needs are brought to life in a simple way, leaving you to enjoy the story without the burden of useless background knowledge.

The story opens with a brilliant scene in which leading man Darian is being held at gunpoint as he is threatened in order to give up his ship's password. The rough-voiced pirates are suitably vocal and harsh in their speech, leading to a good few chuckles and the violence is perfectly weighed out in a way that makes you grip the book a little tighter. It was the first chapter that, unlike many books I've read recently, almost sold this book to me completely. Its immediate introduction gave a solid understanding of the characters that I grew to enjoy and, more importantly, needed to know more about.

With a crew of seven characters, the novel has a substantial plot to deal with and we're offered just a fleeting glimpse of these characters hardships and problems, each could be given a main premise in a follow up.

Like 'The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray', the book returns to demons as a magical entity to counter the progressing culture, but again this is a new take on the old hand, as the supernatural element is treated as a science in its early days, one that comes with disastrous consequences if meddled with. The demon arc also ticks the emotional box as one character explains the devastating loss of a nephew through his own incompetence.

Although the novel in itself has a well played out plot with plans and schemes flying left, right and centre, the book did feel very much like a pilot episode. It set the scene well, introducing us to many characters, places and events that will surely be touched on more heavily in the coming books. This is no bad thing. There are one or two things I'd like to know about. The wrack, a zombified version of the North Pole where the undead roam free, seems like a plot device that could support an entire series.

Not quite as original as it feels it should be, 'Retribution Falls' is an excellent novel that mixes many genres and ideas in a exciting way that keeps you completely mesmerised. Although it feels like a base, it is the perfect base in which a series could fly from. Roll on the next one!

Ewan Angus

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