Monday, April 02, 2012

Book Review - The Burning Sky by Joseph Robert Lewis

The Burning Sky
Halcyon Series Book One
Joseph Robert Lewis
Publication Date: December 2011
eBook Edition
462 pages (Portrait View)
Cover Art by Max Davenport


     Ah, more Steampunk! The Burning Sky, the first in the Halcyon Series, by Joseph Patrick Lewis is loaded with Steampunk, magic, dirigibles, political intrigue, angelic ghosts, subtle magic, saber-tooth tigers, nine-foot raptors, shoot-outs, cold-blooded murders, and sword-fights all wrapped up into one remarkable Urban Fantasy set on an alternate Earth. What could be better than that? How about all of the above, superbly written, tightly woven, and packed full of action scenes.

     The Burning Sky is quality writing with great characters, an interesting mystery, a cunning antagonist, and a number of unusual but compelling protagonists whose motives, although somewhat hazy to start, soon become clear as the story develops. By far the most interesting character is Syfax Zidane, an ex-soldier and Major in the Royal Marshals. Syfax is a policeman that shoots first and doesn’t need to ask questions later. He’s been passed-over for promotion due to his “wild” antics and the number of dead criminals he’s arrested but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s loyal, smart, and driven and certainly knows what’s right and he’ll do anything to make sure that good has a champion, even if a few criminals get hurt in the process. He’s in hot pursuit of an arsonist and murderer and is not afraid to employ any method necessary to secure an arrest.

     Other characters worth mentioning are the conniving Ambassador Barika Chou; Shifrah, a paid assassin; Qhora Yupanqui, an Inca princess and her husband Don Lorenzo Quesada de Gadir; and Taziri Ohana an electrical engineer and the pilot of the dirigible Halcyon. de Gadir is a swordsman of some renown and can talk to a ghost and Qhora keeps a nine-foot tall domesticated bird and a saber-tooth tiger as weapons of war. Ambassador Chou has a political axe to grind and will do anything to promote her cause, including murder. Taziri Ohana is caught in the middle of it but all she wants is get back home. If that isn’t enough to get your creative reading interest flowing then nothing will.

     One of the more unique and unusual elements Mr. Lewis has employed in his alternate universe is the integration of Steampunk with the dawning of the age of electricity. Scientists and engineers are becoming more prevalent and certain high-ranking government officials have begun to manipulate science to their benefit. But to what ends? Modern electricity is wholly regarded as an impingement on the current way of life and it plays a subtle but integral role in the plot. Its very existence could bring the world to the brink of war. In many ways The Burning Sky transcends Steampunk as it draws from elements of the advent of the Industrial Age, noir suspense, clever mysteries, sword-flashing fantasy, and plenty of action adventure.

     A short word about self-publishing and why I think it’s a good thing. There’s a lot of debate both for and against self-publishing these days, mostly concerning quality, and the perspective depends on which side of the fence you’re on but in my modest opinion if there ever was a good argument for self-publishing then The Burning Sky is definitely it. As a matter of fact, if you ever find yourself in a dispute with a purist, or his agent, put a copy of this book into his hands. Argument instantly over! This story is polished and professional and as well-crafted, edited, and written as anything that comes out of the established houses. If this is a glimpse of the future of publishing then we, as readers, are in for a very fun ride.

     If you liked Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series, Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century cycle, or Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne books then the Halcyon series is ideal for you. Also, recommended for Steampunk fans, Science Fiction and Fantasy buffs of all kinds, those who enjoy an action-packed swashbuckling adventure, anyone who takes pleasure in strong character-driven stories, mystery aficionados, suspense junkies, and anyone looking for something truly unique to devour.

4 ½ out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Halcyon Series

(Part of The Other Earth series of books)

1. The Burning Sky (February 2011)
2. The Broken Sword (May 2011)
3. The Bound Soul (August 2011)


Other Books by Robert Joseph Lewis:

Europa Series
1. Omar The Immortal
2. Freya The Huntress
3. Wren The Fox Witch

Chimera Duet
1. The Dragon and the Lotus
2. (Coming Soon)

Other Books:

Heirs of Mars: Prelude

Heirs of Mars

Daphne and the Silver Ash

Additional Reading:

Author Website

Author’s Blog

Joseph Robert Lewis Digital Publishing Article The Burning Sky Page The Broken Sword Page The Bound Soul Page

More on the authors mentioned in this review and Steampunk in general:

Chris Wooding

Cherie Priest

Mark Hodder

All things Steampunk

The Steampunk Workshop

Steampunk Magazine

Comprehensive List of Steampunk Works

Steampunk Music


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