Book Review: The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding

Book Review: The Iron Jackal by Chris WoodingWhat if Firefly were more steampunk? The Iron Jackal might answer that question.

I received a review copy of The Iron Jackal from Titan Books. I was told it was a steampunk novel, but now that I’ve read it, I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s actually mash-up of several genres: science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, and even horror. I tend to like it when authors write outside the box, so it’s a given that I ended up really liking this book.

Here’s the story:

Things are finally looking good for Captain Frey and his crew. The Ketty Jay has been fixed up good as new. They’ve got their first taste of fortune and fame. And, just for once, nobody is trying to kill them. In fact, she’s offered them a job – one that will take them deep into the desert heart of Samarla, the land of their ancient enemies. To a place where the secrets of the past lie in wait for the unwary. Even Trinica Dracken, Frey’s ex-fiancée and long-time nemesis, has given up her quest for revenge. Secrets that might very well cost Frey everything. Join the crew of the Ketty Jay on their greatest adventure yet: a story of mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases and death-defying races, murderous daemons, psychopathic golems and a particularly cranky cat. This time, Frey’s in a race against the clock for the ultimate prize: to save his own life.

If that synopsis doesn’t scream Firefly, I don’t know what does. And there are definitely some similarities. First, Captain Frey seems to be a re-worked version of Captain Mal. And like Mal, Frey is in charge of a merry band of misfits. However, that’s where the similarities stop. The world of Captain Frey feels much more like fantasy than science fiction and the technology is, obviously, decidedly steampunk, including the Captain’s ship, the Ketty Jay (which I’m imagining as a blimp-shaped object). There’s also a lot of fantasy elements weaved into the mix, including a variety of religions and belief systems, along with the existence of demons (hence, the horror factor). All of these genres are mixed very well and feel seamless when reading the book. The characters are all likable, but who doesn’t like a merry band of misfits?

The story itself is non-stop fun. From the first chapter that begins in the middle of the action to the very final chapter, expect lots of explosions, gunfights, escaping from almost-dire situations and heroics that seem almost insane. This one is a page-turner and you’ll find yourself always wondering what can happen next. The answer is, apparently, anything.

So yes, I enjoyed this book. It was definitely right up my alley. However, the one downside is that it appears that a serious lack of editing invades the last half. For some reason, the last half of the book is inundated with typos and misspellings. Considering this wasn’t noticeable in the first half of the book, it’s almost as if the editor gave up halfway through. I never let this sort of thing destroy a great story for me, but for those readers that have issues with these sort of things, you’ve been warned.

Finally, The Iron Jackal is the third book in a series. I have not read the previous two books, but found that it wasn’t necessary when reading this one: everything is explained in such a way that catches you up on the story, but doesn’t bog you down with explanation.


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