When I’m 396 pages into a 600 page book and I have no idea what is happening, how the characters got to where they are, how they can do the things they are doing (a helpless 16 year old orphan suddenly gets a knife and a pair of pistols and he can take down ten or twelve trained killers without breaking a sweat?!), or really anything about the characters, then I begin to get a bit tired, a bit weary, and I want to put down the book.
But I also have this fundamental problem stopping a book in the middle. I’ve written about these struggles before, but I am getting better at doing it. There is just too much good writing out there to waste time reading the bad. And, Stephen Hunt, I’m sorry to say, but The Court of the Air is so bad.
Before I decided to put it down I went to my friends over at sffworld see if maybe I was being unfair or hasty. I wanted to see what other readers had written, as I knew that this book was the Book of the Month for June. Well, only fourteen of the multitude at sffworld even replied to the June thread, all uniformly panning the book, but offering hope for Hunt’s future endeavors. I’ll reserve judgment, but most likely Hunt has lost me as a reader. And so, with disappointed resolve, I’ll remove my bookmark from The Court of the Air and turn to my to-be-read shelf just in time for vacation. I am excited! There have been a couple of books I’ve been reserving for my vacation time coming up because I know they will be good. The only question is, which shall I read first??
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by: Jesse Bullington
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
I don’t know what I’m going to pick…
It should give some indication as to how I like Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air that I am 240 pages into it and have not yet blogged about it. The novel immediately grabbed my attention from page one with its fast paced action, dangerous situations, and likable characters. But after the first hundred pages or so it began to lose me a bit. The action all but stopped. More and more characters were introduced with little or no characterization or fleshing out. Different “steampunk” tropes were dragged out to color the world in which he’s writing with almost no word of explanation. I understand that a good steampunk story can have some sort of steam-driven machine with some semblance of sentience. But just because it is a steampunk story doesn’t mean you, as an author, get to just declare there are steam men without exploring the idea somewhat! Steampunk is not yet an established enough genre to do that! You need to say why there are steam men, what their place is in society, how they were created, and so on. And! And, doesn’t it defeat the mechanical purpose of them to give them both mystical powers and a steam-deity?!?
So, the writing is not bad, but neither is it superb. The story comes and goes in starts and fits, but just enough to keep me interested. I hope that the action picks up again with the characters originally introduced, because when he was doing that, it was really, really good, exciting reading. Right now though it’s fallen into a bit of a predictable fantasy-style adventure: characters being chased by a bad guy, party of NPCs introduced, all with different abilities and desires, running through the world toward some undefinable goal shooting off fireballs behind them to keep their would be captors at bay, all the while being watched by some all seeing organization/deity/machine. Tired…tired…tired…