A Maiden Voyage
Created by ggrihn on 5/25/2017 4:37:52 PM

For Steam and Country, by Jon del Arroz

Reviewed by Gregory G.H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor

For Steam and Country is a new, first Steampunk novel by Jon Del Arroz, author of the well-reviewed "space opera" Star Realms: Rescue Run. Like Rescue Run, For Steam and Country has a female protagonist, in this case sixteen year old Zaira von Monocle, only child of the swashbuckling Baron von Monocle, who is struggling to keep the family farm going while her father's away at the wars.

The novel's action begins when Zaira gets the news that her missing father is now presumed legally dead, and his legacy to her is one of the world's only functioning airships.

Rislandia, which the von Monocles call home, is a rather Graustarkian kingdom, where the ruler, King Malaky XVI, exercises personal command over his armed forces, and chooses to grant full ownership of weapons of war, such as the airship Liliana, to his loyal vassals, much as a medieval king might have gifted a destrier to one of his knights. Rislandia is engaged in low-intensity warfare with the neighboring Wyranth Empire, a larger and more industrialized country, and the airship is Rislandia's best weapon.

The technology, and attitudes to it, is an interesting mix. There are rapid-firing cannons and steam-powered mobile artillery, but ammunition is cannonballs. The chivalrous way to take an enemy airship is by boarding action with cutlasses and pistols. The Liliana is a heavier than air craft, with "turbines" atop thick masts that provide lift and thrust, thus making it a cross between a man-o-war and a heavy lift helicopter.

After a disastrous first flight in nominal command of the Liliana, Zaira gets reluctantly drawn into the war—until an opportunity arrives that she can't pass up. She and the Liliana's crew set course for the heart of danger--.

When, in the early pages of the book you encounter characters named "von Monocle," "von Cravat," and "du Gearsmith," you might wonder if this is a sendup. However, once that's out of the way, the story settles down to be a solid adventure tale, much in the mold of Patrick O'Brian or other sea-story writers. There is romance, betrayal, reunion, and ultimately a far darker danger than anyone had anticipated.

For Steam and Country is an enjoyable first outing in the Steampunk genre, suitable for younger readers as well.

For Steam and Country is set for June release.

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