1/07/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: HarperCollins. 455 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-723223-9.
check out websites: www.harpercollins.co.uk and www.stephenhunt.net
Two girls both orphans but from opposite ends of the social scale are the full-on heroines of the latest in the series of Jackelian novels from Stephen Hunt.
Purity Drake is from the royal line but too mad to breed from. A fittingly gruesome opening sees her being tested once again by civil service surgeon. Her nightmares are the only thing that keeps Purity from the Royal Breeding House and they've getting more intense over the last month. It might be the comet overhead or is it just her severe congenital weakness but all she knows is that this is her only chance is to escape.
Channelling the power of an ancient Queen of the Jackals, Purity kills a guard with astonishing strength and climbs over his body to freedom in the company of a traveller who has come an awful long way to find allies.
Molly Templar is all grown up. Older, wiser and richer from writing adventure stories she is living in Tock House with Commodore Black and steam man, Coppertracks. Their adventuring days are behind them and their companion, Oliver, just a whisper on the wind. He was taken over by the Hood o'the Marsh and continues to wage war on the unjust. But all of them along with ex-soldier and war hero Duncan Connor and inventor Timlar Preston, imprisoned by the Court of the Air, will have their part to play.
The traveller pursued by hungry enemies will draw all these people together because it's time to save the world. A terrible army of dark power is approaching the Jackals and all the surrounding countries and there is no stopping it with the weapons available in this world. It will be necessary to make a journey but first Molly has to convince the government that she, the writer of celestial adventure novels, is the right woman for the job.
This is a curiously quaint place that uses steam power to make computers work and airships instead of aircraft. Perched in a time where technology can only move forward with the power of an open fire, we are launched into an epic adventure that grips like classic fantasy. It has been likened to Jules Verne and I can see the connections but there is plenty in this stew of ideas. Cooking alongside, I'm convinced that 'Dr. Doolittle's Trip To The Moon' also influenced a little child called Steve. There is a lovely air of wonder that is not tainted by cynicism despite the many harsh events that take place in the course of the novel. It's a fascinating read and I feel Hunt is becoming more deeply involved with the characters he creates even though he has some tough decisions to make.
'Rise Of The Iron Moon' fairly rattles along and it satisfies with a suitably epic ending. It is part of a series, though, and it does leave with a sense that there may be yet more adventures for these characters.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA