Blasting off

A review of Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

I think the first description I saw about this book was that the main character was Horatio Hornblower crossed with Honor Harrington set in a steampunk world. Ahhhh. My sweet-spot - and really until I heard that description, one I didn't even know I had.

The Guns Above is set in an alternate version of Europe and features wars fought with aircraft (as well as soldiers on the ground). But the aircraft aren't fighter planes, they're fighter blimps (of a sort). And the protagonist Josette Dupris has just won command of one after her heroics lead to a lot of positive press, and despite the fact that women aren't supposed to be allowed to participate in active combat. On an airship they're meant to be auxilliary only. Something Josette has chafed against since joining the Air Signal Corp. Though her promotion to Captain comes from the loss of her former ship and crew, Josette is determined to seize the opportunity to show she can do the job. The only things standing in her way? A commanding officer who would be just fine if she and her ship crashed and burned (literally) and his nephew, Lord Bernat, a gambler and a fop who has been assigned to her ship to spy on her and report back when she fails.

I stayed up way late reading this one and enjoyed every minute of it. The battles are suspenseful and gritty in all the right places and the interactions between Josette, Bernat and the crew were total fun. Josette knows why Bernat is there, but he doesn't know she knows. And though he's a fop and a wastrel, he's not dumb. So they play extremely well off of one another.

If I had any wishes for this debut, it was that there was just a little more character development. The action and the world-building are meticulous, but there's not as much attention paid to fully-fleshing out Josette and the rest. I'm hopeful that the sequel will begin to fill in some of those blanks, but it's a minor issue. This is a blast (almost litearlly) from start to finish.