Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: 'Retribution Falls' by Chris Wooding

Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes.

Suddenly Frey isn't just a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don't. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons.

It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not the criminal they think he is . . .

Retribution Falls (book #1 of the Ketty Jay series) is fantasy with a few SF elements to it, which is quite adventurous reading for me (I don’t usually wander far outside of sword and sorcery/medieval-type fantasy). I think the fact that it was different really helped my enjoyment of it, as I’ve found a lot of the ‘traditional’ fantasy I’ve been reading has started to feel a little stale.

I read a lot of this book on my commute to and from work, and other books I’ve read recently have suffered for this, partly because the structure of the story doesn’t stand up to being read in little chunks. Retribution Falls was actually great for this kind of reading: the characters spend a lot of time hopping from place to place, never doing any one thing for too long, and as such there are lots of short sequences and well-structured chapters that made it easy to just pick up the book and carry on from where I left off.

The characters were a bit hit and miss for me, and I didn’t feel like I engaged with them as much as I’d hoped too. I’d pretty much expected ‘Locke Lamora on an airship’, so it’s no wonder Wooding’s characters didn’t quite live up to my expectations (then again, even the last Scott Lynch book didn’t live up to my expectations, so maybe the problem lies with me . . .). The main character here, airship captain and smuggler Darian Frey, is likeable enough, but not quite as roguish or interesting as the blurb suggests, and I actually found myself more invested in the secondary characters, mainly Crake and Jez, than in Frey. Even they didn’t feel fleshed-out enough, though. I think all the characters were lacking depth in one way or another: it felt to me like I was playing an RPG, and the characters were ‘companions’ who eventually revealed something about themselves depending on what you said to them. I also found it highly unbelievable that Frey had spent so much time with these characters before the events of the book, yet was only now starting to care about them enough to take an interest in them.

Criticism aside, I enjoyed reading the book, and am looking forward to getting hold of the second one in the series sooner rather than later.


Click here to view Retribution Falls (Ketty Jay #1) on Amazon UK


  1. One of my favorite series, but I really loved some of the characters. Crake and his golem almost got tears out of me at the end.

    But that cover, eh horrible. Usually I like the UK versions better but that looks like the cover to a walking dead knock off show.

  2. I really don't mind the cover! But from what I've seen only the first 2 in the series are done in that style . . . which means that when I buy 3 & 4 they won't match. Grr!