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Stephen Hunt – The Rise of the Iron MoonThe Rise of the Iron Moon is the 3rd book in Stephen Hunt's Jackelian series (which stands at 6 books as this is written). It's been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, as I had some mixed feelings about my enjoyment (or, in parts, lack thereof) of the previous volumes, The Court of the Air, and The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.
I have to admit that The Rise of the Iron Moon has not changed my views...

The story centres, yet again, on Jackals, which is, yet again, threatened by a mysterious outside power which can, yet again, only be defeated through ancient and mysterious means and weapons, channeled through the likes of Molly Templar, Commodore Black, and Coppertracks the Steamman. So far so par for the course.
The enemy threatening (and actually overrunning) Jackals, Quatershift, the Catosian Leage and the rest of the civilised worlds is the Army of Shadows, which, we learn, come from the Iron Moon, which used to be known as a regular comet until it changed course, and attached itself to the world. Molly's Hexmachina is trapped in the centre of the world, and thus powerless; which means that other protagonists, with other secret powers, need to be brought into plays, including the re-incarnation of a famous Jackelian Warrior Queen, and of course Connor of Cannarabia (groan...).

All of this plays in a very  rich world, with loads of history, hidden layers, and plenty of interconnections under the surface. So why does Hunt have to throw such an amount of ideas, concepts, tropes at it to create a story? It's not necessary in my opinion given the great world/universe he's built, and the actual story is none the better for it.
Besides the already extensive hodge-podge of victorian-style science, steam driven computers, intelligent steam-driven robot (whose ancient civilisation has a voodoo-based religion), victorian-era electrics (plus some electronics), leylines and magic, nano-tech, ancient Gods, and as always loads of politics we now also add space travel, genetic engineering, Alien Vampires, time travel and time-bending clouds/fields in space...
It comes across as a case of 'you want it you got it' – there can't be all that many setups or tropes that are not included somewhere/somehow, not many iconic settings not ripped off sometimes during the series, generally for very limited entertainment value.

Having said that I hasten to add that Hunt is a captivating and engaging writer; especially when the action is rolling, when the story if moving forwards inexorably like an express train then he's good, really good. When he's discussing politics (and his Tea-Party style leanings come through, yet again) or when he feels he has to exhibit scenes and showcase discussions then he can be tedious and cringeworthy, to the point where I was, repeatedly, tempted to close the book, put it down, and leave it there and then.

If you like the series, don't mind the overwrought setting, and can deal with the weaknesses in his writing then this is for you. On the other hand I don't think that I can personally recommend that you start with the series, though – I cannot see myself actively seeking out the other 3 books...

More Stephen Hunt

Title: Stephen Hunt
Author: Stephen Hunt
Series: Jackelian
Series Number: 3/6
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Harper/Voyager
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2009
Review Date: 120812
ISBN: 9780007232239
Price: UKP 7.99
Pages: 464
Format: Trade Paperback
Topic: Steampunk
Topic: Adventure

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.


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