Popular British YA author Wooding (Havoc, 2010, etc.) makes his adult debut with this rollicking, picaresque steampunk fantasy.
On an unnamed but seemingly boundless planet populated chiefly by aristocrats and outcasts—piracy is a popular career choice, perhaps because there's nothing much else to do—Darian Frey is the captain and proud owner of the flying machine Ketty Jay. Such machines fly by the power of a magical gas and feature advanced explosive weapons, yet they don't even have radio. Some devices are powered by demons. If you can swallow all that, read on. The piratical Frey cares only for himself and his ship; his crew are the usual motley bunch of endearing rascals—a reckless pilot, a cowardly pilot, the requisite alcoholic doctor, a "daemonist" and his golem, a taciturn escaped slave and an undead navigator with developing superpowers—though all have well-developed histories. Frey, looking for easy money, accepts a dubious commission to hijack a valuable cargo. Naturally it all goes horribly wrong, Frey finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy, and both sides want him dead. There's plenty of action, derring-do, double-crossing, trickery and gore, though the human settlements the ship drifts through are uniformly drab, tawdry and depressing. The characters grow in the telling. Too bad the whole thing bears such an uncomfortable resemblance to the short-lived but well-regarded TV series Firefly.
Presumably Wooding's past and present YA fans will wish to step up; otherwise, only for readers who don't have a skeptical bone in their bodies.