Review Blog

Sep 24 2010

Retribution falls by Chris Wooding

cover image

Gollancz, 2009. ISBN 978 0575 08515 2.
Reading level 13 onwards. Science fiction fans will enjoy this rollicking adventure set in another world where futuristic spacecraft ply airways which are troubled by pirates who would be very much at home in the Eighteenth Century Caribbean. The story has a definite maritime feel with all the craft being referred to in traditional shipping terms such as frigate, battleship, freighter etc, and the Navy keeps order amongst the legitimate traders, pirates and warring enemies. Curiously pistols, cutlasses and shotguns feature as often as the modern technology and this is part of the magic, with frenzied sword fights and gun battles being a feature. The chief protagonist is Captain Frey, master of the Ketty Jay - his pride and joy which he uses for legitimate cargo and passenger trade. He also engages in smuggling and outright piracy depending upon his financial state and the degree of lawlessness in the regions he navigates. For a pirate, Frey is a likeable character. He is not a bloodthirsty killer and is motivated purely by lust for money, alcohol and women. Indeed the good looking and charismatic Frey is something of a failure in all of his endeavours and he barely keeps his ship and motley crew of misfits afloat. Naturally, driven by greed, Frey agrees to ambush a galleon for an enormous sum of money, only to find that he has been manipulated by powerful criminal forces who seek to bring down the monarchic / aristocratic power structure. Wooding struggles to adequately explain this grossly complicated ruling system yet the story does not suffer for it. The reader is satisfied that evil forces, the Awakeners seek to overthrow a benevolent regime by foul means. Our hero and his crew, having taken the fall for a heinous act must somehow assist the Navy and authorities (who are hoping to arrest and execute them) to bring the real culprits to justice. There are a multitude of interesting and frightening characters in this tale and the reader witnesses the development of loyalty, acceptance and camaraderie amongst Frey and his crew, all of whom are escaping trauma or failure of some sort. This is an exciting story and the misadventures and foolhardy escapades of this crew are extremely amusing. As in all good pirate stories, terrific battles between ships abound as the Ketty Jay sails to the pirate stronghold of Retribution Falls. (Language, violence and sexual themes are not excessive).
Rob Welsh

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