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Kingdom Beyond The Waves [Paperback]

Stephen Hunt
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 10 2008
From the author of The Court of the Air comes a hugely engaging, Victorian-style adventure, filled with perilous quests, dastardly deeds and deadly intrigue -- perfect for all fans of Philip Pullman and Susanna Clarke Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilisation of Camlantis, a legendary city from pre-history that is said to have conquered hunger, war and disease -- tempering the race of man's baser instincts by the creation of the perfect pacifist society. It is an obsession that is to cost her dearly. She returns home to Jackals from her latest archaeological misadventure to discover that the university council has finally stripped her of her position in retaliation for her heretical research. Without official funding, Amelia has no choice but to accept the offer of patronage from the man she blames for her father's bankruptcy and suicide, the fiercely intelligent and incredibly wealthy Abraham Quest. He has an ancient crystal-book that suggests the Camlantean ruins are buried under one of the sea-like lakes that dot the murderous jungles of Liongeli. Amelia undertakes an expedition deep into the dark heart of the jungle, blackmailing her old friend Commodore Black into ferrying her along the huge river of the Shedarkshe on his ancient u-boat. With an untrustworthy crew of freed convicts, Quest's force of female mercenaries on board and a lunatic steamman safari hunter acting as their guide, Amelia's luck can hardly get any worse. But she's as yet unaware that her quest for the perfect society is about to bring her own world to the brink of destruction!

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Review

'A ripping yarn ! the story pounds along ! constant inventiveness keeps the reader hooked ! the finale is a cracking succession of cliffhangers and surprise comebacks. Great fun' SFX 'More than a dash of Jules Verne ! an entertaining and imaginative journey into the unknown' DeathRay 'To say this book is action packed is almost and understatement ! a wonderful escapist yarn! Definitely a book to take with you on a long flight' Interzone Praise for The Court of the Air: 'An inventive, ambitious work, full of wonders and marvels' Lisa Tuttle, The Times 'The characters are convincing and colourful, but the real achievement is the setting, a hellish take on Victorian London ! the depth and complexity of Hunt's vision makes it compulsive reading for all ages' Guardian 'Wonderfully assured ! Hunt knows what his audience like and gives it to them with a sardonic wit and carefully developed tension' Time Out 'Rich and colourful ! keeps you engrossed ! a confident, audacious novel' SFX 'Like a magpie, Stephen Hunt has plucked colourful events from history and politics and used them for inspiration ! Hunts tells his full-blooded tale with lip-smacking relish, revealing a vivid, often gruesome imagination ! 'The Court of the Air' brims with originality and, from the first, its chase-filled plot never lets up' Starburst 'The best book of 2007 ! Think Joan Aiken for grown-ups, with echoes of Susanna Clarke ! hugely enjoyable' Historical Novels Review

Review

PRAISE FOR

THE COURT OF THE AIR

“Hunt has packed the story full of intriguing gimmicks…the ‘steammen’ and their refreshingly tender machine culture are affecting and original.”

—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“A curious part-future blend of aerostats, mechanical computers, psychic powers, self-willed steam-power robots, Elder gods, talking superweapons and more…Harry Potter mugs H. P. Lovecraft and L. Ron Hubbard explains it all.”

—KIRKUS REVIEWS

“An ultra supersonic speed Dickens fantasy thriller….”

—SFREVU.COM

--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Wildness! Jan. 23 2010
Format:Paperback
One of the difficulties with Stephen Hunt's books is that his worlds are populated with such wild creatures, magic and technology that it can sometimes be difficult to imagine it. But if you take the time to read through it - even if you can't quite picture everything - you will find a brilliant tale with robust, interesting characters, death-defying adventures, and a world so intricate and wild that will leave you breathless!

As Hunt's second book, it is much easier to read than Court of the Air, the story is solid, the characters more believable and their motivations clearer.

Kingdom Beyond the Waves is a delightful, intense, exciting read from front to back! I highly recommend it!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, poor execution Nov. 8 2009
Format:Paperback
As with his previous novel "Court of the Air", I only managed to get a few hundred pages in to this. I kept thinking it was going to get better and unfortunately it didn't. The story never congeals into something you can grasp..too many sub-plots, confusing politics, and as others have pointed out, characters with no depth. Stephen Hunt has some great ideas but he gets bogged down in world building and not very clever references to Dickens etc. Stephen are you listening?? Put in a map!
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book! Oct. 12 2009
By Brian Driver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
All right, I admit it at the start...I'm a big fan. This is the second installment of Stephen Hunt's slam bam steampunk/adventure series, and now I can't wait for The Rise of the Iron Moon's American release.

The novels are character-driven adventures set in an imaginary world whose center is the nation of Jackals, a nation not unlike England. Because this is steampunk, Jackals is a coal-driven quasi-Charles Dickens era society of floating airships and gas lamps--a modern, but not too modern, society. The heroes are at once likeable and sympathetic, be they children with hidden bloodlines or strong men with anvils for hands or eccentric mechanical steammen or orphans with exoskeletons. Both novels are set in motion almost immediately--in the manner of an Indiana Jones movie--and what follows is a rich mixture of political intrigue, dark magic, and reprehensible rogues. There is almost no down time in either book--they propel themselves with the force of a steamroller until the final pages.

If there are any complaints leveled at Hunt's works, it's that he can be VERY ambitious. I thought that the climax of his first book, The Court of the Air was maybe too big, too spectacular. It had as many plot threads as a Tom Clancy novel, and when you marry that with a whole new planet of cultures, characters, and conflicts, it can and did get pretty hairy. But "The Kingdom Beyond the Waves" is much tighter, from start to finish. There is no shortage of action...it's rare to have a dozen pages slip by without a big revelation or a reversal of fortune, but the story is always gripping and credible--a heady task, given that earth quake-like forces can propel whole cities into the upper atmosphere: three-eyed reptiles can talk and fly; and...well, you get the picture.

In short: disgraced professor Amelia Harsh has just about given up on her father's quest--finding the ancient lost civilization of Camlantis--when a rich benefactor appears: Abraham Quest, the man who drove her father to ruin. As her options are limited, she gathers a crew composed of convicted slave traders and steroidally enhanced female soldiers and they board a refitted u-boat to sneak up the Shedarkshe river into the Daggish territory, a brutal jungle where all intruders run the risk of being forcibly assimilated into an animal-plant hive called the Greenmesh. On the way she must deal with a saboteur, a mutinous crew, and a growing awareness that secrets have been kept from her, and the true purpose of her expedition will not only endanger her life, but the lives and destiny of her entire world.

If you can't tell, Hunt's imagination is almost limitless, and there is no end of intrigue and plot twists throughout. And it's FUN to read...in fact, I had to keep telling myself to slow down, to savor. I like how he spreads it around, too: his female characters are every bit the equal of the males, and it is a mark of a gifted writer that even mechanical men are gIven as much personality and backstory as the flesh-and-blood ones. And this, I think, is Hunt's greatest strength: he has created a world that, two novels in, shows no signs of diminishment. He has so much going on in his first two novels that what I understand might be a six-book series seems entirely possible.

A note: while "The Kingdom Beyond the Waves" is a stand-alone novel, it helps to have read The Court of the Air beforehand. I love these books so much that I'm actually constructing a glossary of the unusual terms and phrases that might help readers a bit--it's about the only thing I thought was missing from these big, wonderful books...and I'd be happy to share it with anyone who wants it, or would like to contribute to it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another home run from Stephen Hunt - SPOILER FREE May 4 2010
By Noah Sutcliffe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Court of the Air was a massive undertaking that established the Jackelian universe and all its idiosyncracies. A fantastic tale in its own right, a lot of that book was devoted to building a world where Hunt's innovative and offbeat characters and systems could properly function and be understood.

Not so with the The Kingdom Beyond the Waves. It jumps right into a tight-knit adventure story whose gears mesh perfectly with the beautiful world Hunt has created. From the Indiana Jones-esque prelude to the smart and well-situated conclusions for each character, Hunt has definitely found a new gear with this book.

Some of the characters will be familiar to readers of the Court of the Air, but no cheesy cameos exist here. Everything and everyone is here for a reason and the entire project is woven together beautifully using a unique set of rules. Hunt is really very good at creating an original, twisty plot that takes advantage of a different look, feel and rule set.

However, because the universe is so different, I definitely would recommend reading the Court of the Air prior to the KBTW. Not only is COTA a great book, but you need to understand this universe to really get the most out of KBTW.

It's very rare for me to laugh, cry and feel this much excitement from one book, but Stephen Hunt has done it for me again. Go for it, it's an extremely rewarding piece of fiction.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steampunk at its best Aug. 7 2010
By Vanessa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Professor Amelia Harsh has lost her tenure at the last university in Jackals that would hire her (after being fired by the other seven...). Why? Because instead of studying and writing papers like a normal university professor, she's out hunting relics of Camlantis, which everyone knows is a myth.

Enter Abraham Quest, the richest man in Jackals, who has been doing his own archaeology on the sly, and found proof that Camlantis exists. Unfortunately, the clues point the way into the heart of darkness itself, the source of the Shedarkshe river in the wilds of a jungle from which no explorer has returned. Camlantis was a utopia, with untold engineering feats, a society of pacifists, and Amelia and Abraham are convinced that it holds the key to making their own war-torn society a better place. But it means risking lives in order to see that goal realized.

Hunt spends the first half of the book setting up the story, and because there's a lot going on, several characters to introduce, and a world to build, the time it takes to do this isn't unreasonable. However, it does make the first half slow-going. His prose can be dense, which also slows down the pacing and flow, but does make for a richer world. I love Hunt's metaphors. He is truly clever with his descriptions, adding depth to the world at the same time.

Finally at about the halfway mark everything goes wrong for our protagonists. And not just wrong, I mean horribly, how in the heck are they going to get out of this without dying, wrong. It's a series of life-threatening events that lasts the entire second half of the book. Hunt spins threads between all the characters deftly, so that when everything begins to collide, the weaving stories makes sense despite the chaos. Awesomeness on many levels.

Set in an Earth that could have been, Hunt mixes machinery, magic, and a dizzying assortment of races with alacrity. There's the race of mechanical steammen, who, while they have no country to call their own, still have autonomy wherever they live. There's the amphibian craynarbians, which unfortunately don't get as much face-time as the others. Also, the flying lizard lashites, who turn out to play an important role. In a story like this the races could have been gimmicky, but the cultures of humans and non-humans alike were all integrated into the plot in satisfying ways.

Hunt's steampunk world is ambitious, and while he does an excellent job of introducing it without overwhelming the reader, about 5% of the time I didn't remember or understand a name, race, or piece of equipment. On the whole for such a steep learning curve, only forgetting a small percentage is a petty complaint, and says a lot about the author's world-building, which is complex and fascinating.

Magic plays a secondary role to the mechanical, which made me sad because Hunt hints at interesting possibilities he simply doesn't have time to explain or explore. Also, while the pacing is consistent, the flow of action can be jarring, and sometimes I had to re-read a few paragraphs to grasp everything that happens when the action switches. The biggest problem I saw, which could be minor considering the other strengths of the novel, is that with such a large cast it is difficult for the main characters to have any real depth. While the characters have their interesting quirks and motivations, there's no question that for KINGDOM, it's the setting here that's on display--and what a vision it is.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, not meant for kids June 21 2010
By Swift 36 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Hunt does it again! You'll want read The Court of the Air first, since even though this is a stand-alone story, it makes numerous references to people, groups, and events in its predecessor. Well-paced and plotted, with interesting characters, esp. the villains. The reason I say "not meant for kids" is that while the marketing/covers make both books look geared to adolescents, trust me, this is not Ender's Lame, Harry Pooter, or other kiddie-trooper ilk. In particular, the violence can be quite graphic. Genre-wise, Hunt's clearly steampunk, but though his work falls a bit short of early-Mieville quality, it doesn't do so by much.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jules Verne meets Steampunk meets Indiana Jones... Feb. 4 2011
By Deb Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Much tighter and more linear than Court of the Air, thus easier to keep track of , and enjoy, what's happening. Two main storylines, both engaging, instead of the myriad threads that convoluted the first book. It also provides some context to some of the obfuscated elements in Court of the Air; I have a much better grip on the relationships between the various political factions. The storyline with "Furnace-breath Nick" is particularly engrossing, because the character is a beguiling mix of The Shadow, Batman, and the Scarlet Pimpernel ("sink me") with a supernatural edge, and his interactions with Abraham Quest, the central financier whose motivations are nebulous, are full of nuance, tension, and intrigue - well-written shadow boxing and verbal chess. This reads like a sophisticated and erudite pulp serial where each chapter has some astounding plot twist ending in a cliffhanger...great imaginative fun. A wonderful adult comic book written with very elegant prose.
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