An entertaining and fun beginning to a steampunk fantasy series filled with great characters.
A few months ago when I finished Wooding’s newest book, The Ember Blade, my review was flooded with comments along the line of “I can’t wait for this one. I loved his Tales of the Ketty Jay series!” and because I absolutely loved The Ember Blade, knowing that there’s so much love for Wooding’s previous series immediately seal the deal that I MUST give this series a try; and I’m glad I gave it a go.
Retribution Falls is the first book in Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay quartet. The main story follows the sky pirate Darian Frey—the unlucky captain of the airship Ketty Jay—and his ragtag team of misfits. The plot began when Frey was offered a heist mission that will make him extremely wealthy and as usual, the mission immediately went completely wrong. Honestly speaking, the first half of the book was really weak in my opinion. The majority of the story in Retribution Falls were very predictable; that’s just the nature of the book after all. Not only the story was predictable, in the first half of the novel I was mostly bored because I found the excellent characterizations that Wooding implemented in The Ember Blade was completely missing. With predictable story and non-engaging characters, I found myself thinking whether the book will ever get better and oh my god, it certainly did. The second half of the book was significantly better in every way possible that every page since the 51% mark became addictive to read.
The aerial dogfights, the writing, the setting, they were all engaging in the second half but it was how invested I am in the characters that enhanced the enjoyment factor of this book by a LOT. The second half of the story was where Wooding finally displays his talent in characterizations. The cast of the Ketty Jay is a unique bunch. They have different personalities, agendas, backgrounds, but then through each difficult circumstances, seeing them eventually bonded as a team was heartwarming and satisfying. All the crew of Ketty Jay came with baggage from their past and this theme ran throughout the entire book; maybe even the entire series. As their past slowly unraveled, their characterizations also were improved. Although this is just the first book of the quartet, there were already plenty of growth and development to the characters’ personality and relationship; even Darian Frey started out as a completely despicable selfish asshole but by the end of the book, my perception towards him has started to change and I have come to care about his predicament. From what I have gathered, it seems like what we’ve seen so far in the first book is just the tip of the iceberg of Wooding’s talent in characterizations. Frey and Crake received the most spotlight within this book, and I can’t wait to know more about these characters and their misadventures.
“Regret’s just a way to make you feel okay when you’re not making amends. A man can waste a life with regrets.”
Lastly, I want to talk a bit about the world-building of the book and my experience with steampunk. Despite experiencing and LOVING tons of steampunk fantasy genre in another medium such as video games, movies, and manga/anime, somehow I haven’t read a lot of steampunk fantasy novels. In fact, the only other series that’s considered as steampunk fantasy that I’ve read and enjoyed was The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft. I may have to read more out of this genre because this ended up becoming another steampunk I enjoyed. That said, Retribution Falls seems to receive a lot of comparison with the TV series Firefly, which I have heard only great things about and somehow haven’t watched yet. Because of that, I can’t elaborate upon the comparison but from my experience, there’s plenty of similarity with the anime Cowboy Bebop and other steampunk anime I’ve watched and enjoyed. In this first installment, Wooding did a great job in world-building his steampunk series and leaving a lot of rooms to be improved in the sequels. The aerial dogfights, the airships, the settings, the elation of flying, they were all well-written. Also, I found Wooding’s prose to be super enjoyable and pleasant to read; his prose was simple, never gets in the way of the story, and combined with the fun tone of the book, Retribution Falls was both relaxing and entertaining to read.
Retribution Falls may have a predictable story, I won’t even deny that. But boring? Yes for the first half but absolutely not for the second half of the book. I was so engaged by everything that I just can’t wait to read the predictable parts of the story unfolds. Overall, I found Retribution Falls to be a great beginning to a series. If it weren’t for the subpar first half of the book, it would’ve received an even higher rating from me; I simply enjoyed the second half immensely. Now that I’m already attached to the world and characters, I’m very eager to continue with the series; which majority of the fans seems to agree that it gets better with each sequel.
You can order the book HERE!