Edition 9: Book Review: Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
In choosing a book to review for this issue of SQ Mag, I confess a hidden agenda. I’ve taken an interest in steampunk, particularly that of the romantic variety and want to read as many as I can to research those elements for my own fiction writing. I’m happy to report that this book served both purposes well. For the sake of our magazine, I’ll stick to a simple review.
The book opens with a harrowing airship battle between the British Navy and their enemies, the Hapsburg Empire. Captain Christopher Redmond is forced to make a daring escape amidst the enemy’s fire and winds up behind enemy lines, hiding his airship, The Demeter, the best he can within the vast mountains. He soon flies near a small village, where he witnesses a fire fight surrounding a barn. Outside the barn’s window flies a British distress flag, so he immediately comes to the man’s rescue…
Only to find out it’s not a man. It’s Louisa Shaw, British Naval Intelligence agent, and the woman who left him without so much as a note three years prior. Despite his conflicting emotions, Christopher cannot leave anyone to die on the battlefield, so he rescues Louisa, and the details of her true mission begin to emerge.
Though a rather short read (at 100 pages), Skies of Fire held enough action and romance to keep my attention. I loved the unique steampunk elements throughout. For instance, Christopher is not just a man; he’s been transformed into a ‘Man o’ War’, which involves fusing a metal called telumium to his body, mostly in the left shoulder area. Not only does this fusion enhance his size, strength, metabolism, and emotion, but it links him to his airship. He basically serves as the ship’s fuel source. The author crafted this symbiotic relationship well enough to make it believable.
The powerful relationship and tension between Christopher and Louisa also proved believable, considering the circumstances of their separation and the urgency of the mission ahead. I did, however, find it hard to believe that he didn’t press her for an answer to why she left him until she admitted it herself. He possessed proper emotions—confusion, anger, betrayal—but why he wouldn’t ask befuddled me.
The rest of the story’s conflict flowed at a natural pace, until the climax approached. Louisa’s mission involved destroying an enemy munitions factory, so she had to design explosive devices to do that. Without divulging more secrets, I’ll just say that the ‘revelation’ of how she must design the properly-sized explosive seemed really contrived and unnecessary.
After that, the rest of the climax played out in a rather breathtaking way, with Christopher demonstrating his abilities as a Man o’ War and Louisa showing just how good a spy she could be. I would have liked for this part to be expanded just a bit, with more conflict and danger, instead of a mad dash to the ending. However, the ending itself was satisfying, and the story left me wanting to read the next book in the series.
Skies of Fire will likely satisfy romance fans more than steampunk lovers, but if you enjoy both elements in one story, this is a book that will not disappoint.
Skies of Fire, by Zoe Archer
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2012
Mysti Parker is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. She is also the proud writer of Unwritten, a blog recently voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award.