The Guns Above (Signal Airship #1)
By: Robyn Bennis
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
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 a marvelous creation. The action, the humor, the airships, the world catches your attention. It is fast paced and has well drawn characters and steampunk and it tackles imperialism and sexism in a fantasy setting. So, really, I couldn’t dislike it if I tried.
Josette is a woman who has been reluctantly let into the man’s world of the Garnian army. In addition, she wasn’t expected, as a woman, to amount to very much among the ranks of the army personnel. Except, she does. She changes the tide in a significant battle and comes under the scrutiny of a general who would like nothing more than to see her fail. In an attempt to soothe his ego and prove that all women are unfit to be in the army, he sets her up to fail on an experimental aircraft with his nephew watching her every move.
Josette is set up against great odds but doesn’t blink. Her crew is wary of her and her expertise and airships have a tendency to crash even if they aren’t experimental and untested. She remains self assured and self aware throughout the novel and retains her quick wit in the face of an increasingly violent war.
Bennis’s first novel is one to pay attention to, her writing flows well and has a sarcastic bite when looking at the men who so desperately try to tell women what and where they should be. Her action sequences and the airships that carry them out are first rate in their design and application. This is a fantastic start to a new series and I’m looking forward to what else comes Josette’s way.
Book two, please.
Robyn Bennis is a scientist living in Mountain View, California, where she works in biotech but dreams of airships. She has done research and development involving human gene expression, neural connectomics, cancer diagnostics, rapid flu testing, gene synthesis, genome sequencing, being so preoccupied with whether she could that she never stopped to think if she should, and systems integration.
Her apartment is within sight of Hangar One at Moffett Airfield, which was once the West Coast home to one of America’s largest airships, the USS Macon.
Her debut novel, The Guns Above, comes out in May 2017.
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