Tuesday, September 03, 2019


(A Signal Airship Novel)
By Robyn Bennis
Tor Books
367 pgs

Among the more than fifty novels we read last year, one of our favorites was Robyn Bennis steampunk adventure “The Guns of Above.” Now she has given us its sequel, “By Fire Above” and it not only as good as her first outing, but in many ways far superior. Simply put, it’s a page-turning delight.

We are reunited with the Garnian airship Mistral and its crew of stalwart men and women led by the no-nonsense Captain Josette Dupre; aided by the flamboyant and witty Lord Bernat Hinkal. The same Lord Hinkal who just happens to be her mother’s lover. There’s also recently promoted Ensign Kemper and Sgt. Jutes among others. Believe me, within a few pages of introucing each, Bennis fleshes them out brilliantly.

In the previous novel, Josette’s hometown of Durum had fallen to the enemy forces of Vinzhalia. In the first half of this book, she learns how to gain favor among the Garnian royal court in hopes of persuading the Command Staff to approve the retaking of the town. With the help of Bernat and his older brother, Roland, she miraculously manages to gain an audience with the King and then is stunned to learn he is willing to grant her wish; the army will march on Durum with Mistral flying support.

Bennis’ satirical depiction of court life and politics is both insightful and funny. Yet it is only the prelude to the heart of the adventure. Once the campaign to retake Durum is underway, she pulls out all the stops and the action ramps up to full speed ahead. It is so fast and precise; you’ll have trouble catching your breath from chapter to chapter. Her weaving of multiple, fascinating characters throughout explosive, suspense filled combat is simply amazing.

Bennis is one of the finest writers we’ve ever had the pleasure of discovering and her Mistral adventures exceptional in every way. Think C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower in the sky and you’ll get the idea. If you love imaginative action, adventure and truly remarkable characters, please, do not miss “By Fire Above.”

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