By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis – Review

Cover- By Fire Above

Published: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Signal Airship #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

“All’s fair in love and war,” according to airship captain Josette Dupre, until her hometown becomes occupied by the enemy and her mother a prisoner of war. Then it becomes, “Nothing’s fair except bombing those Vins to high hell.”

Before she can rescue her town, however, Josette must maneuver her way through the nest of overstuffed vipers that make up the nation’s military and royal leaders in order to drum up support. The foppish and mostly tolerated crew member Lord Bernat steps in to advise her, along with his very attractive older brother.

Between noble scheming, under-trained recruits, and supply shortages, Josette and the crew of the Mistral figure out a way to return to Durum―only to discover that when the homefront turns into the frontlines, things are more dangerous than they seem.


By Fire Above is one of those books that comes in as a strong sequel to a series that seems fairly underappreciated. The whole premise of the first female airship captain outsmarting the enemy and leading heroic maneuvers is quite fascinating. Though it’s been a year since I read the first book it didn’t take me long to recall the details thanks to promptings in the beginning of this installment. I do wish books had a quick recap though… it would make life so much easier.

I greatly enjoyed Josette’s exploits in this book, including but not limited to her conquering of Lord Bernat’s brother. I’m still not sure if she did it entirely to spite Bernie or if she actually had feelings for the fellow. The better late than never disposal of a disagreeable crewmember was also one of my favorite parts because idiots like that really do end up in charge of things and they should be swiftly discharged… though perhaps not in that manner.

This book was a good mix of action (lots in the latter portion) and pomp, circumstance, and bureaucracy nearer the beginning which was nice because it gave the reader a chance to see the characters when they weren’t in panic mode. I think this book was a great pick for Tor’s Fearless Women campaign because Josette is nothing if not fearless. I mean, she boldly asked the king if her hometown could be retaken from the Vin, she personally skulked around and did reconnaissance, and led some wild charges against enemy forces. She’s really something, and her crew is staffed with severally equally competent and crazed ladies.

By Fire Above left me with a good impression and though I’m not wildly enthusiastic about the series, I think it’s good quality and plan to read it until the end. Unless it drags on and on and the quality deteriorates, but I suspect this won’t be one of those travesties. If you’re looking for a more unique military fantasy that gets out of the trenches and into the sky, you might want to check out this series. It’s a refreshing break from the abundance of military fantasy that focuses on the ground troops.

Currently Reading: 6/18/18

Cover- Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

This has been in my Audible recommendations for months AND it came in 2nd for the SPFBO so I decided to check it out. I realllllly like this book and I’m glad to see a sequel has already been published! I would 100% play a video game based on this book and I would love every second of it.

 

 

Cover- By Fire Above

By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis

I’ve been carrying this book around in my purse for days, so I’m actually going to finish it this week. I enjoyed the first book and expect this one will carry on with the same quality.

Stacking the Shelves: 5/12/18

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review: 

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Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

This is definitely one of my most anticipated sequels of the year and I’m absolutely DEVOURING this book. It’s so good and I’m super grateful that the folks at Orbit sent this over!

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

I don’t know too much about this book beyond the synopsis, but it sounds pretty wild. I think it will be a fun read and a nice break from heavy, serious fantasy. Thanks to Mulholland Books for sending a finished copy.

By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis

I enjoyed the first book in this series and am looking forward to checking out the sequel soon. Airships and battles oh my! Thanks to Tor Books for sending a finished copy.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides

This book gives me Locke Lamora vibes and if it’s half as good as that, it will be a good book indeed. Thanks to Orbit for the ARC.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

RBJ has a new fantasy series coming out in late summer and I was fortunate to snag an eGalley of it! Foundryside promises to be an exciting new adventure and I expect it will be as unique as the Divine Cities trilogy.

Eden Conquered by Joelle Charbonneau

I TOTALLY missed that this was even coming out next month! I really liked the first book, Dividing Eden, and hope the quality remains. Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the eGalley.

My Purchases:

The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger

I really wanted to read this book when it released last year, but didn’t have the opportunity – that’s what Audible credits are for! This was a pretty good book and I’ll be posting a review in the near future.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Another audiobook purchase – decided to check it out before watching the tv series. It honestly was pretty boring, but I’ll check out the tv show anyway. Review forthcoming.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I decided to snag the audiobook after seeing so many glowing reviews for this book. I’ve already started listening and I’m hooked already!!!

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

I almost forgot I bought this!!! It arrived and I read it in a single sitting. It’s under 300 pages and is supposed to be a bridge between the first three books and the next arc of the series. Review forthcoming.

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis – Review

Cover- The Guns Above

Published: May 2, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

Series: Signal Airship #1

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupris can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.

She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?


The Guns Above is the debut novel of Robyn Bennis and somehow I didn’t know about it until Tor emailed me about a review! Such a large volume of SFF books are released every year that I always miss an astounding number of good books. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this sort of Napoleonic-war era steampunk fantasy!

The characters were what really made this book stand out. Josette Dupre is the first female airship captain in Garnian history and as such, she’s under enormous pressure to succeed. Lord Bernat is under orders from his uncle General Fieran to make certain that Dupre looks like a failure in the public eye, no matter how successful she is. The two are at odds from the very beginning – Josette would truly like to throw Bernat overboard, but ballast is valuable and not to be wasted even if it does cause trouble. Bernat’s (or Bernie) observations of Josette’s decisions are slanderously inaccurate I found myself affronted on her behalf for the first quarter of the novel. Eventually things settle down between the two and Bernie is a crack shot with a rifle, which makes him useful as more than just ballast.

The plot is also quite good, though without the quality characters and dry humour, I think it would have felt a little stale. The Garnians are in the midst of a war with a neighboring kingdom and the airships are a valuable commodity. Dupre’s ship Mistral is a new design and as the crew runs it through the standard battery of tests, they end up on the front lines of the second front of the war (which isn’t supposed to happen). Enemy engagement, terrifying aerial maneuvers, and a few subplots keep things interesting for much of the book.

Overall, this was good debut and I hope the rest of the series (however long that may be) will be equally good, if not better. I didn’t feel a strong connection to the characters until the latter part of the book which was somewhat disappointing, but by the end I was cheering for the Mistral and her crew. I think the improvement in characterization and story pacing as the book progressed speaks to the potential Robyn Bennis has as a writer and The Guns Above was a debut to be proud of.

Currently Reading: 4/24/17

Cover- The Guns Above

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

I wasted no time diving in to my newest acquisition from Tor- airships, battle, etc. are all very appealing! So far it’s great and the characters have a droll sense of humor which I really like. At this point I’d also like to go ahead and throw Bernat off the ship and save the drama.

 

 

I’ll also be finishing up Paper and Fire this week and (hopefully) starting another book that’s due for a review!