Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

If you’re a Firefly fan like me, you probably yearn for more adventures out on the raggedy edge. If you’re a Firefly fan like me, you’ll probably love Retribution Falls. On the surface, the story has a lot that is similar to the cancelled series. It focuses on a group of outlaws that don’t belong, as they struggle to keep their ship, the Ketty Jay, in the air, which is the only place they can now call home. The group is led by a rugged, good looking captain- a scoundrel who has too many damn morals that keep him from getting rich but does make him loveable.

The comparisons do continue, but to say that Retribution Falls, the first in Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay series, is nothing but a Firefly ripoff would be a disservice to this highly enjoyable new series. For one thing, if you’ve never watched an episode of Firefly, but you enjoy steampunk or pirate adventure stories you could just as easily enjoy Retribution Falls.

The world that Chris Wooding creates is one in which magic and the mundane coexist, albeit not peaceably. Magic is explored through demonism, a forbidden practice in which demons are trapped and used to create magical objects such as a demon thralled cutlass and an ear cuff that allows the crew to communicate with each other. Electricity is in short supply and a gas known as aerium is used to keep airships like the Ketty Jay flying.

Chirs Wooding manages the impossible by combining a rip roaring adventure story with strong, fully rounded characters. There are no cardboard cutouts in this story. Yes, you could lump them into categories such as the drunken doctor, the strong, silent female, or the spurned lover, but each of the crew offers an intriguing back story. And as Captain Darian Frey struggles to get this ramshackle team to work as, well, a team, it becomes clear that this dysfunctional group belong with Frey on the Ketty Jay.

Retribution Falls combines an old style pulp story with a healthy dose of murder, political intrigue, and double and triple crossing. When Darian Frey gets hired for a job that seems too good to be true, well, it turns out that it is, and Frey finds himself mixed up in espionage, and on the run from both the government and his fellow pirates.

I won’t lie to you, even now, I still have trouble picturing anyone other than Nathan Fillion as Darian Frey. And there were plenty of moments that I found myself comparing it to Firefly, but, in a good way, if that makes sense. If there’s anything that really bothered me about the story (aside from the surface Firefly comparisons) it’s that I didn’t get as much of a feel for the world that Wooding had created except for mentions here and there about certain religious groups and wars with neighbouring lands. But even this is only a minor niggle given that Retribution Falls is just the first in a series of Tales of the Ketty Jay books, so I have a feeling that Wooding will offer plenty more back story in his follow up books (book two, The Black Lung Captain is already out).

If you’re looking for a fast, enjoyable fantasy/adventure romp that you won’t want to put down, then Retribution Falls is definitely worth a look. Don’t believe me? Check out The Logbook of the Ketty Jay for a little taster.