A steampunk-inspired adventure follows two men whose circumstances lead them to face each other on a fantasy airship battlefield.
Jack Keats and Omar Ibn Barir are both trapped by circumstances into fighting their nations’ wars, but that’s where the similarities end. Jack’s Dickensian city-world has turned him to a life of crime to keep his brothers, Saul and Alan, from the poorhouse. After a burglary gone wrong, Jack ends up on the wrong side of the law and finds himself unceremoniously drafted as the latest member of the Royal Aerostatical Navy. While Jack’s stuck on the Iron Partridge, an airship with a mad captain and a crew that would just as soon see him dead as alive, Omar is stuck in the Cassarabian desert as a slave, pining for his childhood friend and neighbor Shadisa. In the desert, where the womb mages can turn a girl into a taproot for disobedience, Omar has all but accepted his servitude when his circumstances change as dramatically as Jack’s and he is granted freedom. Like all good things, Omar’s freedom comes at a price, and his is that the religious sect of the master he formerly served makes him the persona non grata of the nation. Though he’s freed himself, Omar is in danger and must flee. But where can the former slave go without having his past ties discovered? Circumstances place him in the caliph’s military forces in time to be pitted against Jack on the battlefield, imperiling Omar’s plan to find and save Shadisa.
The bedrock elements of the warring worlds, especially their fantasy capabilities and limitations, are as hard to remember as the rules of Dungeons and Dragons, though fans of Hunt (The Secrets of the Fire Sea, 2012, etc.) will be thrilled by the piquant minor details.