“The Court of the Air” by Stephen Hunt

I am currently not reading Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt. After forty-nine pages, I have yet to find a hook that appeals to me. While the concept of a dark and disturbing fantasy steampunkish world appeals to me… the “applying the tech with a technology to the tech drive, captain!” formula established in Star Trek scripts has been applied liberally here.

Nearly every second noun is something new to the reader from the world setting, but is not explained at all by context. There is – as far as I can tell this far in – little characterisation for the two protagonists. I know that they are orphans, and at the power of others. But I don’t care much for either of them; there’s hardly anything there to care about.

I had to work too hard to press on, and I only began reading it on the recommendation of my GM, so I looked up a few reviews. What amused me most was that a lot of reviewers seemed to think that the Court of the Air was Hunt’s first novel. A quick skip and a jump over to his profile site, and it easy to discover that after a career in journalism Mr. Hunt found success with his first novel, For Crown and the Dragon, in 1994. Court of the Air was published in 2007.

His life history page on his website claims of For Crown and Dragon that: “The novel and its related short fiction sparked a sub-genre, flintlock fantasy”

(Edit: Apparently, this could be a simple mistake. In a book review, a reviewer termed the phrase “flintlock fantasy” mentioning For Crown and Dragon and a couple of other recently published novels. I would take that to mean that the reviewer had identified a trend in fiction publishing and sales, but I’m sure that Hunt could have quite easily interpreted it to reflect more on his own MS.)

Also, that: ” His novels are now published by HarperCollins in the UK alongside their two other fantasy best-sellers, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.”

Now, his books aren’t unreadable. Still I’m not going to invest the time in about 600 pages of it. Not when it’s competing with Wintersmith and The Gap series in my pile. But I’ve read a lot of HarperCollins novels and I’d like to say that there are doubtlessly other fantasy books in their line that enjoy slightly better sales than this one. He’s not just comparing himself to the Voyager imprint, but to two of the most famous fantasy writers of the last few decades. In my mind, that’s a very big claim to make.

I am curious about the hype over his first novel. I might check it out someday. But life is too short to read books that annoy me, so Court of the Air is going back to my GM, where it will be re-read and appreciated.

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