A hugely engaging adventure set in a Victorian-style world – a fantastical version of Dickens – that will appeal to fans of Susanna Clarke and Philip Pullman.
Two orphans are more than they seem. And one megalomaniac will stop at nothing to find them…
When Molly Templar witnesses a brutal murder at the brothel she has just been apprenticed to, her first instinct is to return to the poorhouse where she grew up. But there she finds her fellow orphans butchered, and it slowly dawns on her that she was in fact the real target of the attack. For Molly carries a secret deep in her blood, a secret that marks her out for destruction by enemies of the state. Soon Molly will find herself battling a grave threat to civilization which draws on an ancient power thought to have been quelled millennia ago.
Oliver Brooks has led a sheltered life in the home of his merchant uncle. But when he is framed for his only relative's murder he is forced to flee for his life. He is accompanied by Harry Stave, an agent of the Court of the Air – a shadowy organization independent of the government that acts as the final judiciary of the land, ensuring that order prevails. Chased across the country, Oliver finds himself in the company of thieves, outlaws and spies, and gradually learns more about the secret that has blighted his life, but which may also offer him the power to avert the coming catastrophe.
Their enemies are ruthless and myriad, but Molly and Oliver are joined by indomitable friends in this endlessly inventive tale full of drama, intrigue and adventure.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
‘An inventive, ambitious work, full of wonders and marvels’ Lisa Tuttle, The Times
‘Rich and colourful … keeps you engrossed … a confident, audacious novel’ SFXFrom the Publisher:
The difficulty for many writers is finding the time to balance writing and working life, how did you go about retaining some kind of self-discipline?
I think the trick to approaching this as an author is to take the same approach as we're all meant to use for exercise ... a little a day, every day, goes a long way. Writing is also a great way to get rid of your dead time. Rather than sitting on the train staring out of the window and getting annoyed by the person next door's iPod on full blast (like they can afford a state-of-the-art mpeg player but can't splash out the extra tenner on a decent set of ear phones), tune in to that fantasy world swimming around your head instead. The plus point to this approach is that you'll never get annoyed waiting half an hour for your train again! It's a blooming bonus.
You have some extraordinarily vivid and imaginative descriptions, particularly those of your steam-powered robots, the Steammen and an incredibly brilliant vacuum-powered transporting device known simply as 'the atmospheric'. Is your room littered with sketches for the technology of The Court of The Air or did it come vividly to you as you imagined the world of Middlesteel, the Undercity and Shadowclock?
To be honest, a lot of this just comes down to being well-read and plundering history as much as possible. The early Victorians did actually have a working atmospheric-like system for mass transport running as a small-scale model, but the economics of financing it killed the system's roll-out. Could have happened, though. That being said, I have always suffered from an overactive imagination (aka just making stuff up); it's good to find an outlet for it that allows me to do okay out of it, rather than just annoying co-workers on my various day jobs with my flights of fancy.
Your Steammen, unlike many conventional science fiction robots, are more spiritual and humane than many of their human counterparts did you feel that this was something worth stressing in the light of recent technological progress?
I think technological progress will take us there anyway. Maybe not this century, but if we could peek forward a little to say a thousand years times, I think we would be truly blown away by what's lurking around the corner for humanity. But back to the mundanities of the 21st century and the here and now, it was just a great way to have some fun with the clunking stereotypes of the robot in the Court of the Air.
Droids that are more humane and spiritual than humanity? Looking at what we're doing to the world, it sometimes doesn't feel like that would be too much of a leap.
How important is it to be writing good science fiction in Britain? Do you think that there's enough support out there for rising talents in the genre?
I don't think there's any problem with the volume of native talent in the UK. What there is lacking is a paying market for short genre fiction with any sort of readership picking up those magazines, which has traditionally been the way genre authors used to develop their work into novel-length quality. On the flip side, the web has taken up the reins of this role, albeit with some terrible quality judgements on what does or doesn't get published. The internet isn't usually a paying market, though. You're working solely for the love of the written word, and it often feels as ephemeral as the photons the net runs along.
Do you have any recommendations for budding writers?
Stick with it. Write and get better. Read constantly across every genre that's out there, even the ones that wouldn't normally appeal to you. You need to develop a very fine sense of your own worth while balancing this with an almost schizoid opposite-but-equal force of self-criticism. And forget about joining any writer's circles for any other reason than a drink down the pub with like minds. Writing is a solitary occupation – you need to climb that mountain with empty hands; anything other than locking yourself away with pen and paper is writing-avoidance ... and these, my children, are the devil's distractions (along with decent Saturday afternoon movies and a subscription to the SCIFI Channel).
You've mentioned before in interviews that you're not so keen on writing a trilogy based around the same characters, do your think a readership can be put off by seeing 'Book One' written on the spine of an sf or fantasy novel?
It certainly puts me off, now. When I was a student and had all the time in the world maybe that would have been a positive, though. I would have been looking at the book jacket in Waterstone’s and thinking, brill, after I've done this one, there's another twenty to go. Well, it beat sitting in lectures, didn't it?
In a world of excessive Star Wars, Da Vinci Code and J K Rowling clones, should more writers be steering clear of this subject matter in favour of something more original? What are some prospective stories that you might like to read should they ever get written?
The idea of writing to target a readership demographic is one I find very alien, maybe because I've always had a day job to fall back on, so any writing in my spare time had to be what I enjoyed creating rather than just whatever is selling right now. Better to create your own market, rather than following on the coat-tails of others. After all, there was no Da Vinci Code sub-genre before Dan Brown, and JK Rowling was following firmly in the footsteps of a hundred boy/girl wizard tales (even if, hats off to her, she did rather whiz up the sales numbers around this category).
You need to take your own risks and follow your own path. Any other road leads to unhappiness. If it came down to a choice between working on a building site or writing the first 'Eastenders the novel', I think I would say, dude, where's my hardhat?
Are you getting much time to do any reading yourself at the moment, if so, what are you reading?
I read less than I like, now, but I always have a few books on the go by my bedside. I'm currently cutting through Terry Pratchett's Thud!, the historical adventure Ratcatcher (another HarperCollins author, if I'm not mistaken), Alastair Reynolds’ Pushing Ice, an illustrated history of the Napoleonic navy, not to mention a whole pile of the latest magazines, of which I am also a terrible addict ... Wired, SFX, the Spectator, The Economist, .Net, New Scientist et al. And don't even get me started on the comic books and graphic novels drifting through the house at any one point in time!
Which titles would be among the books you've read that provide the most nostalgia for you?
I was lucky in that my father is a science fiction fan who began collecting pulps during his own World War Two childhood, the good stuff that the GIs and victory boats brought over as ballast. I was raised on the classics, man, HG Wells, EE "Doc" Smith, Fritz Leiber, A.E. van Vogt, Clifford D Simak, Michael Moorcock, Jack Williamson, Robert Heinlein, Clarke ... if it was SFF and published prior to the 1970s, I probably had access to it.
Can you tell us a bit more about your next project?
I'm following my own advice, and have just handed in my second novel, which is still awaiting a firm title, but fans of the first work will be pleased to know it's set in the Jackelian world with a few familiar faces from The Court of the Air, and it isn't a trilogy (or even a duology).
The second tome is more of a high-adventure affair with echoes of King Solomon's Mines and Indiana Jones, involving a u-boat voyage to find a lost city that is rumoured to contain the secret for humanity’s salvation, but in actuality holds a little more than that.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Voyager, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. First edition, first printing. Signed and dated by Stephen Hunt, who has also added a line from the book.In new condition with some minor yellow marks on page edges otherwise fine. **************PACKED IN A BOX WITH PLENTY OF PROTECTION. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 8693200
Book Description HarperVoyager, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007232179
Book Description HarperVoyager, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0007232179
Book Description HarperVoyager, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110007232179