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The Court of the Air (Jackelian World) Hardcover – June 10, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Jackelian Series

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Hardcover, June 10, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two teenage orphans in an anemic fantasy analogue of Victorian London are baffled to find themselves on the run in this overeager effort from British author and blogger Hunt (For the Crown and the Dragon). Molly, pursued by determined assassins with mysterious masters, hides underground, while Oliver, framed for his uncle's death, takes to the air to escape the fey-hunting Special Guard. They also draw the attention of the Court of the Air, a shadowy black-ops organization, and communityist revolutionaries seeking to resurrect ancient subterranean gods. An entire steampunk menagerie is pressed into lackluster service, but the pace leaves no time to focus on any single element. Only the steammen and their refreshingly tender machine culture are affecting and original. The historical and geographical parallels are overly frequent and mostly trite. Hunt has packed the story full of intriguing gimmicks, but the end result is more overload than wonder. (June)
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Praise for The Court of the Air
“An inventive, ambitious work, full of wonders and marvels.”--The London Times

The Court of the Air is a genuinely engaging read, which has believable characters in a fantastic setting.”--The Bookseller

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Product Details

  • Series: Jackelian World (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Us Edition edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765320428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765320421
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,026,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I sort of liked this book. Orphans are always good. So are flying ships. Robots. Underground cities. Ancient civilizations. War. Guns and swords and exploding tree sap. Magic mind bullets (or something like that). Crab people. Communism. Mutants. Evil insects from another dimension. From the outset I thought it was going to be a twisted Dickensian romp through filthy streets and cloudy skies. What I got was a book so full of good ideas that it didn't have the time to develop anything before rushing off to the next good idea. It was sadly lacking in character growth (which was unfortunate, considering it was about 2 kids growing into their destinies) and the conclusion was fairly predictable. Not a lot in the way of suspense or emotion or comedy. If you like those old Edgar Rice Burroughs books where every story is the same, just set in a new locale(be it Barsoom, a jungle, Pellucidar or Venus), and you never have to worry about what anyone is thinking or if the protagonist is going to survive, you'll probably like this book. A sweeping, sophisticated epic it most surely is not. I enjoyed parts of it, but I think I read it mostly because I needed something to do on my lunch breaks.
It's not bad. Just don't pay full price.
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Format: Hardcover
Among his many literary contributions, Charles Dickens may also go down as the man who made it hip to be an orphan. Or at least, hip to write about orphans as main characters. It's become so overused that it's now a Victorian cliché. (That is good heroic orphans are cliché; evil orphans are still an underrepresented minority.) So if you are reading a fantasy novel with strong Victorian overtones, you'd expect to see at least one orphan. If not: shame on you, Victorian-inspired fantasist.

Not to disappoint, Stephen Hunt gives us two orphans, Oliver and Molly, as main characters in "The Court of the Air". Hunt also gives us a well-imagined and innovative Victorian-inspired fantasy world populated by a menagerie of stunningly developed characters. The novel mixes together disparate elements like living machines, Loas, dirigibles, parliamentarianism, underground cities, Big-brother inspired eyes in the sky, insect gods and mysticism. Slow to start and get into mainly due to its wide focus, the novel really hits it stride about halfway through as everything comes together beautifully.

Molly Templar lives at the Sun Gate workhouse, a poorhouse that apprentices its residents to local merchants. Far from a conscientious or good worker, Molly finds herself fired from a variety of jobs until she finally is apprenticed to a brothel. On meeting her first client, Molly finds herself inexplicably attacked by the man, and witnesses the murder of another prostitute by her assailant. Only her resourcefulness saves her, but on her return to the workhouse, tragic events make her realize that something dark and sinister may be afoot. Molly flees, only steps ahead of her assailant, an assassin named Count Vauxtion.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I won't go into much detail, but I'm fairly surprised this has gotten such generally dismal reviews here. No, it wasn't groundshakingly great, but it was coherent, well-written, and never dull. Neither did it strike me as terribly derivative: the closest parallel for me, I suppose, would be Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought) (the quasi-medieval parts of the story); maybe some of Schroeder's (underrated) Ventus too. Anyway, there's a lot of promising stuff in this book, and I, for one, look forward to reading more by Mr. Hunt.
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Format: Hardcover
I am in full agreement with science fiction writer Jay Lake when he described The Court of the Air as being a cross between Jack Vance and Charles Dickens. It is basically a steampunk novel with swords and sorcery. What makes it different is its setting. Instead of taking place during the Victorian Era, it is set in a far future in which several civilizations (our own included) have collapsed and others have taken their place. A phase transition has rendered electronics useless; making virtually everything steam powered, with the exception of transaction engines (supercomputers) and other more complex machinery that utilize crystals. Adding to that, magic (or remnants of a superscience that appears to be magic) is commonplace. Yet the world in most ways seems to be firmly entrenched in the 19th Century with its hansom carts, penny dreadfuls, and labor-management disputes.

Most of the story takes place in a nation called Jackals, which bears a very close resemblance to England. There are two orphaned young protagonists that the story alternates between. The first being young outcast Oliver Brooks, who lives with his uncle because his parents died in an accident in which his own survival resulted in his social stigma. When his uncle and their housekeeper are murdered, Oliver is framed for the crimes. His only ally is a government agent named Harry Staves, who might be as untrustworthy as the murderers pursuing him. The second is Molly Templar, whose disposition is as fiery as her red hair. She is a poorhouse ward who loses every job that she is assigned to until she is apprenticed into prostitution. Of all the dumb luck, her first customer is paid a monumental fortune to kill her.
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