Monday, December 12, 2011

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Author: Chris Wooding
Publisher: Gollancz
Date: June 18, 2009 (paperback).

I have a confession to make. I first started reading this book when it came out in paperback a year and a half ago. I'd made it about 35 pages in when something else caught my interest more strongly, and this book fell by the wayside. After recently finishing Retribution Falls, I'm disappointed that I don't even REMEMBER what took me away from this book. I should have had this review up back in 2009, and I'm sorry that many of you have had to wait until now to hear about this great book.

Retribution Falls tells the story of Darian Frey, Captain of the Ketty Jay. She's not much for beauty, but she flies and Frey loves her. The crew...well, they don't quite hold the same place in his heart as the Ketty Jay, but they're all right.

Frey is a small-time smuggler, and occasional pirate (if the job's easy and not too messy, that is). When he gets offered a once in a lifetime opportunity, he's hesitant, but eventually takes the bait. Thus begins the great adventure of our crew, as they're soon on the run from just about everyone in the country, and trying to stay one step ahead of the headsman's axe.

Retribution Falls is a book that I'd immediately put on your to-read list if you're a fan of the "loveable rogue" archetype. I'm talking Locke Lamora, Tom Sawyer, Kvothe (sometimes), Silk, Mal Reynolds, etc. Darian Frey is right up there with them. He's a broken man who sometimes does some pretty low things, but you can't help but love him.

I'd also put this book on your Christmas wish list if you're a fan of adventure books. Peter F. Hamilton's cover blurb says it quite nicely: "Retribution Falls is the kind of old fashioned adventure I didn't think we were allowed to write any more..." I can't agree more. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a book like this, something lighter, but something that still has a deep world beneath it. Sure, the characters all have their problems, but you get a feeling that this is going to be a book where the characters' problems eventually push them closer together and form something special between them, and they do.

Finally, this book needs to go in your to-read pile if you're looking for fantasy with guns. It's nice to see a book where magic co-exists with pistols nicely. It's happening more and more lately, which I think is a good thing.

Speaking of the magic, there's a lot to like here. It's just complex enough to keep you interested, and the magic often has a light-hearted feel to it since it's often involved in some of the more comical aspects of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the Daemonist Crake and his...well, her name is Bess, and that's the best way to describe her.

Don't get me wrong, even though this book is bursting with adventure and there are some very good laughs to be had, there's plenty of serious talk going on as well. These characters are all flying for a low-life small-time pirate captain for a reason, and by the end of the book you'll know them all. They're not happy stories, but they really give depth to the characters, and make those final scenes of action much more meaningful.

I loved

  • Frey. He's just so darned hard to hate!
  • Guns & Magic. It's nice to see them getting along again.
  • The excellent balance of humor and sadness.
  • The characters. We're working heavily with archetypes in this book, but they all have a vibrant life of their own. Very well done.
I hated

  • Some small parts of the ending. It seemed like things just happened a little too fast in places for my liking.
Retribution Falls gets a 9/10. I'm already sailing my way through The Black Lung Captain, the second volume in the series, and it's just as enjoyable as the first. If you're a fan of capers, adventure, magic with guns, or the loveable rogue, you owe it to yourself to give this one a go.


  1. Does it say bad things about my character that I identify strongly with all those characters you mentioned? Or at least really enjoy it when they get to be bad? :)

  2. Naw, it just says that you're a sucker for the "loveable rogue" like I am. I'd also say it means you have good taste. :)

  3. Nice review! I've been peeking at ths one for a while. I think I'll read it next.

  4. It's definitely worth it, if you're a fan of this type of book. It didn't grab me at the beginning the first time, which is probably why I took something over it, but now it's a year later and I don't remember what I read that was better. Maybe it was Ghost Story by Jim Butcher, which I would excuse myself for? Not sure :)

  5. I so want to read this! It was a book club title earlier this year, I am kicking myself that I wasn't able to participate that month. I've got some credit at the local indie bookstore, I know what I'm gonna spend it on. and how could I say no to "loveable rogue"? ;)

  6. Couldn't have said it better. Loveable Rogue is always high up on my list, with Mr. Lamora at the very top.