Review | The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

Title: The Iron Jackal
Author: Chris Wooding
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback
Release Date: October 2011

Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com

Things are finally looking good for Captain Frey and his crew. The Ketty Jay has been fixed up good as new. They’ve got their first taste of fortune and fame. And, just for once, nobody is trying to kill them.

Even Trinica Dracken, Frey’s ex-fiancee and long-time nemesis, has given up her quest for revenge. In fact, she’s offered them a job – one that will take them deep into the desert heart of Samarla, the land of their ancient enemies. To a place where the secrets of the past lie in wait for the unwary. Secrets that might very well cost Frey everything.

Join the crew of the Ketty Jay on their greatest adventure yet: a story of mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases and death-defying races, murderous daemons, psychopathic golems and a particularly cranky cat. The first time was to clear his name. The second time was for money. This time, Frey’s in a race against the clock for the ultimate prize: to save his own life.

The Iron Jackal is the third novel following the crew of the Ketty Jay, preceded by Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain. I've thoroughly enjoyed the previous novels and, despite my poor reading last year, it always hovered near the top of the to-read stack. After finally settling down to read The Iron Jackal I found myself treading lightly, wondering whether it could equal the previous books. I really shouldn't have worried as Chris Wooding brings his A game to the table and delivers not only a good tale of the Ketty Jay, but an excellent novel in itself.

The fortunes of Frey and his crew looking up, with widespread recognition and the Ketty Jay given a complete overhaul courtesy of his old fiance and long time nemesis, Tranica Dracken. When she offers him a simple heist job Frey is keen to take it on, seeing as nothing could go wrong, or so he thinks. When the item he must steal lays a curse on him, Frey and his crew must race against time before it fulfils its purpose and robs him of life, taking him to many places he's not been, and some that some members of his crew would rather not return to...

It's easy enough to say why I enjoyed The Iron Jackal so much: because, like it's predecessors, it's a page-turning, action packed, character driven novel. Being the third in the series means that you're likely to have read the first two books and know what you'll be getting into, but if not I highly suggest starting at the beginning. Not only does The Iron Jackal expand on what has gone before, it introduces some other new elements that ensure it's not just walking in the footsteps of Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain.

Wooding manages to keep the characters fresh, delving a little further into some back-stories, and exploring new aspects following The Black Lung Captain. The dynamic between the crew is as good as ever, and the introduction of Ashua early on means there's a new female for Darien to make a fool of himself over, despite some interesting developments in the Tranica department. And I can't forget Bess, who once again delivers some of the stand-out moments in the novel for sheer enjoyment.

As for the story, well, it's a fairly straightforward affair. Darien needs to return a stolen item to it's home or he dies from the curse that it inflicted on him. But it's not as simple as it may seem, and the crew of the Ketty Jay go from place to place trying to track down where it came from, with some enjoyable set pieces along the way. The ending is great, and once again opens up some new aspects that can be looked at further in the concluding volume of the Ketty Jay saga.

All in all I found The Iron Jackal to be hugely enjoyable. It continues what I expect from the series and leaves a fair few questions open for the final instalment, The Ace of Skulls. Once again, another highly recommended novel from Chris Wooding.

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