• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Steampunk Airships

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The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis:


Captain Josette Dupre is the first female airship captain fighting in a grim conflict between Garnia and the Vin Empire. In The Guns Above she has to overcome culturally entrenched sexism and bumbling bureaucratic incompetence as she brilliantly pilots her fragile signal airship, Mistral, through epic battles against overwhelming odds. To make matters worse, she's been saddled with a political officer in the form of General Fieran's nephew, the foppish Lord Bernat. The dialogue between the two is rapid-fire, cynical, and very funny. Over time they slowly build an alliance (not a romantic relationship) based on mutual respect earned despite their mutual distrust.


With its cannons, muskets, and swordplay, this solidly Steampunk war story is more reminiscent of the Napoleonic wars than WWI. I loved the extensive detail Bennis puts into the day-to-day technical workings and procedures of airship operations. And when Captain Dupre takes the Mistral into battle, I thrilled to the roar of cannon as I did to the seafaring warfare of Captain Jack Aubrey in the (Master and Commander) Maturin series. Many readers might find this level of technical detail overwhelming, but I loved it.


One peculiar emotion I encountered, especially after I waded into the second book in the series, By Fire Above, what the pointlessness of the non-stop warfare and endless battles between the Garnian and Vin forces. There was a sense of despair as the decades-long campaigns were waged by seemingly disinterested aristocrats from afar while those involved in the struggle often suffered horrifically for very little apparent purpose. It took some time before I realized that this might be an intentional decision by the author to show the pointlessness of war. Naturally, I want to root for victory and hope against hope for the hero to pull through; however, sometimes, I just wanted the madness to stop.


Get the Series


Book 1 - The Guns Above


Book 2 - A Fire Above


Book Review: Steampunk Airships

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