Retribution Falls

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Gollancz: paperback published 2010: 398 pages

Darian Frey is the roguish captain of the Ketty Jay, and leader of a small and highly dysfunctional group of layabouts. Frey and his gang run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves, all the while avoiding the Coalition Navy frigates.

A hot tip on a cargo freighter seems like a great chance for a simple heist. But when the robbery goes awry and the freighter explodes Frey suddenly finds himself public enemy number one, with both the Coalition Navy and hired bounty hunters after him. But Frey knows something they don’t; that freighter was rigged to explode and Frey’s been framed to take the fall. To prove his innocence he’ll have to catch the real culprit, surviving gunfights and facing down liars and lovers, Dukes and daemons along the way.

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

Lola Sees Stars is basically a genius. No, I’m not kidding. This girl not only knows her stuff with books, but she’s also awesome at pretty much everything else. There have been many a fine evening spent in her den-like front room, supping on mugs of rosé wine and shooting zombies on the Wii, or discussing the merits of Dean vs. Sam in Supernatural.

So I tend to pay attention when she recommends I read something (it might take a few years to get around to actually reading it, but I do pay attention). As previously mentioned in multiple posts, it is Lola Sees Stars’ impatient thrusting of new books under my nose that has grown my love of fantasy, steampunk and every other kind of quirky novel you can think of.

Retribution Falls is no different. The plot, admittedly, is a little predictable (you kind of know the twist before the twist is mentioned), but the book’s quality hangs on its characters and not necessarily the plot. You have Frey, the heartless, drug-addict captain, and his motley crew of miscreants, misfits and runaways.

You love Frey, despite his tendency towards arsehole-ish-ness, and you learn to love the rest of the characters in their own way. Wooding has a habit of info-dumping – there are a lot of “big reveals” about the crew’s mysterious respective pasts that could have been leaked bit by bit instead of all at once, but other than that, I can’t really complain about his character-creation. They’re flawed and daft and funny and kind and heroic in an unwilling way, just like normal people.

I love characters. You should know this by now. I can be very forgiving of a questionable plotline if the characters are good enough. I enjoyed this book because I fell in love with characters (and it has a slight Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it, which does no harm when I imagine Jack Sparrow hiding round every corner). I liked the general idea of the plot, and its ultimate execution, but my biggest criticism is that the book suffers from shit-ending-itis. I won’t give it away, because although it’s a little predictable, I don’t like to ruin other people’s reading enjoyments, but it was a bit meh.

Upside? There are more books. Yes, I can read more about Frey (inappropriate crush alert – mainly because I picture him as Nathan Fillion) and his band of pirates. Remember my comments about “rip-roaring” from Kristen Britain? Well, this has the same feel – but better quality. Fudge to the shit-ending-itis, as long as these books go on and on and on, and I get a never-ending supply of Frey-ness, I’m basically happy.

Lola Sees Stars, I think I love you, you mental genius.

Rating: 7/10

Next book: Predictably, this is another Lola Sees Stars recommendation. The Lies of Locke Lamora allegedly contains her favourite line in the history of books… “I just punched the cat.” I instantly have to read this just to find out the truth of this allegation. Having cheekily started it before starting to write this post, I’m getting steampunk Oliver… think Charles Dickens but not boring.


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