Kingdom Beyond The Waves Paperback – Oct 10 2008
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'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
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
“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
“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
“An ultra supersonic speed Dickens fantasy thriller….”
Top Customer Reviews
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!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
The author creates a really unique world. His writing is pretty interesting in which he mentions things in passing or in the immediate conversation as if you, the reader, know these things already and as a result you learn things about the novel's world really nicely without sad and boring exposition. It is really a great way of writing and that made me enjoy the novel even more so. And to do this successfully, as the author has, is amazing since the world he creates is truly a sci-fi/fantasy world that is completely unfamiliar to the reader.
The story is about a woman professor named Amelia from a nation named Jackals in a steampunk world (Victorian era atmosphere (think of Jules Vernes) with an alternate history-like technology (steammen, airships, Capt. Nemo submarines, etc.)) who is hired by her deceased father's rival, a brilliant scientist/business man named Quest, to find the lost city of Camlantis, what is believed to be a utopian society of peace and prosperity for all. The city is known to have been lost to a self-inflicted floatquake (an earthquake but the land is sent to float in the clouds rather than necessarily destroyed). Various artifacts have been found (books that are actually hard drives) showing things of wonder about Camlantis just fuel the urge of the folks to find it. In the world that Amelia lives in having various wars between nations and the normal problems we have today (wars, hunger, disease, terrorism, etc.), Amelia and Quest (it seems) wants to see if the technology and philosophy of Camlantis (if found) would be able to solve all the world's problems. So Quest puts together a group including Amazon like women warriors as defense, ex-slavers as seamen, an old royalist submariner (hidden from the Jackal's government who overthrew the monarchy) as captain, and various individuals to fit niches within the scouting party including one of the best characters named Ironflanks, a steamman (think the Tinman from the Wizard of Oz) who knows the uncharted territory where the original Camlantis was located. Quest himself does not go but only is the hiring man.
Most of the characters are flawed individuals so we do get very real and very believable characters.
There are numerous subplots involving a wealthy shapeshifting character and his lashlite butler (a birdman). And various side stories revealing backstory of important characters like Billy Snow (the navigator), Ironflanks (the scout), and others. The novel moves along smoothly with various set pieces keeping the reader guessing who will survive the Indiana Jones adventure and who will not (since many characters of great importance do die throughout). As you can gather, the story does not slow down at all and with all the action, the book moves quickly even though it is fairly long.
If you are into Victorian sci-fi like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, if you enjoy old school stories like Hammer films or the history of Jack the Ripper, and if you are into steampunk fiction like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, then you'll absolutely love this novel. If you just like good action books and are into fantasy or sci-fi or period piece mysteries, then you'll love it as well. It is definately a good read. It is a shame the author's stories are published in England and only recently have been following here to the states (a year later unless you order from Amazon UK). But let us hope this changes soon and this book gets a look by more readers. Check it out and enjoy.