Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves.
So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn’t just a nuisance anymore – he’s public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down.
But Frey knows something they don’t. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he’s going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons.
It’s going to take all his criminal talents to prove he’s not the criminal they think he is …
I’d heard a few things about Retribution Falls (the comparison to Firefly was always going to bring this to my attention) and I finally managed to pick up a copy when I saw one in my local Waterstones and started salivating all over the cover. Retribution Falls had everything going for it before I even opened the book – it’s got an excellent cover, a blurb that hooks you and a most excellent quote from my favourite author, Peter F Hamilton. Based on these I was expecting an entertaining story that would deliver a fast paced, engrossing read. So, was Retribution falls as good as I hoped? No – it was even better!
The world in which Retribution Falls is set is a combination of fantasy, science fiction and steampunk – a mix that works exceptionally well together. The main focus is on the Ketty Jay and its crew, an eclectic bunch that demonstrate through their actions just how interesting this setting is. We get to see the lives of those that live on the fringe of the law, from conflicted Captain Darian Frey to the mysterious Jez and her exceptional navigation skills. We get action at ground level as well as some stunningly descriptive air battles. Overall though, we get a damned good bit of fun.
The characters, as I mentioned, are ones that live on the edge of the law, scraping by on the Ketty Jay through the actions of their Captain, Darian Frey. It’s Frey that is the initial hook as far as the characters go – he’s an interesting man with some very deep conflicts, that much is obvious. He also has much growing up to do a responsibilities to face, but these are things that are addressed through the story in very convincing ways. As meet the rest of the crew we get background details on them and the underlining feeling that they all have a past that they’re escaping shows through nicely. It gives a realism to the characters, a depth that is often missing from stories with so many in the spotlight. My particular favourites are Crake and Jez, two newer crew members to the Ketty Jay that each have a mysterious nature to them that begs more and more questions, much like most of the crew in that respect, but these two have that something extra that niggled at the back of my mind.
The story itself is just a fast paced roller coaster ride that just doesn’t seem to let up. The ever more dire situations that Frey and his crew find themselves in feel like there is a very real threat and allows for some good scenes that bring many things together. The one thing that Wooding has done with Retribution Falls is that he’s given a us relatively short book when you look at the page count, but looking back on it I’m very surprised that so much was jammed in there. This is not a complaint in any way, in fact it takes something special indeed to draw the reader in and deliver such an in depth and well paced novel.
Retribution Falls is one of those books that I’ll be recommending to anyone and everyone. It’s definitely a must-read title of the year and is it doesn’t show up on many a year’s best list I’ll be very surprised – it’ll certainly be on mine!