Darian Frey is a freebooter and small-time criminal whose most treasured possession is his airship, the Ketty Jay. His so-called “crew” is disorganized and questionably competent, and they all have something to hide. Crake, a daemonist whose magical skills have made him an outcast, is crumbling under the weight of a guilty consience. Jez, the new navigator, can’t let anyone know about her mysterious secret abilities. The ship’s doctor, Malvery, is a drunk, and outflier pilot Harkins has been completely traumatized by the Aerium Wars. Frey and his motley collection of renegades travel around taking odd jobs, but they barely make enough money to live on. That is, until Frey is presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: steal the cargo of a particular airship and receive fifty thousand ducats as payment. The offer seems too good to be true, and it is — the target airship turns out to be carrying the heir to the Archduchy, who is killed when the Ketty Jay attacks. Now Frey and his crew are on the run, but Frey is determined to discover who set him up and why — even if it means losing the freedom and detachment that are so precious to him.
This book, quite simply, was a ton of fun! I picked it up at a Borders going-out-of-business sale because the premise reminded me of “Firefly,” and if you enjoy that type of space Western with a healthy dose of grim humor, I think you’ll really enjoy this book! The plot is predictable but packed with action, and the pacing is great, but my favorite part of the book was definitely the characters. I really liked the way Frey was portrayed; he’s definitely no hero — selfish, misogynistic, irresponsible, and entitled — but he does grow and change throughout the course of the novel. I loved the other characters too, particularly Crake and Jez, both of whom I’d like to learn a lot more about! I think one weakness of sci fi/fantasy/adventure novels is that they tend to make the characters too heroic or powerful right from the start. But in this book, nobody is a hero until (arguably) the very end; the characters actually develop throughout the book. For this reason, the book really exceeded my expectations, and I’m thrilled to discover that it’s actually the first book in a series! It can be read as a stand-alone, but I will definitely be continuing to read about the Ketty Jay and its swashbuckling crew!