I haven’t been reviewing much as of late because it’s a bit harder to do reviews as an author with a platform like mine, but I want to make an exception here for Skies of Fire, simply because I loved the book so much.
The book was Kickstarter over the summer, comprising of the first 4 issues of already successful Kickstarters that were collected in this edition. I ordered the hardcover on the basis of the art by Pablo Peppino, which is extremely good. It’s got that movie-realism feel which doesn’t work for every story, but does for this world of airships.
I mentioned airships — the other primary reason I was interested in the book was the Dieselpunk theme, which is a little different than Steampunk as it’s more a World War 1-2 era alt-technologies than Victorian, but it still has a lot of the same flavors and themes to it.
I could seriously flip through this as a coffee table art book all day, the art is so wonderful. The coloring is wonderful as well. What’s great about this book too is the book as a bunch of airship designs, maps, fake newspaper articles, fake letters from the king, things like that that add a ton to the worldbuilding and just shows author Ray Chou’s love for the project in general. He really took a lot of care with this world and it shows.
The story is a pretty simple one– there’s an Expanse, which is this permanent storm area to the north of the country, and a bunch of raider/pirate types have set up shop there, terrorizing northern cities. The king is annoyed and asks our heroine to do what it takes to get rid of them. This volume focuses on establishing her, shows her hiring her ace crew which ranges from thieves to society cast outs, to even regular members of the military for a very tense crew that provides a lot of internal conflict as well. This volume is clearly not the end of the story as it goes through their airship launch and first outing.
It all works. The characters are memorable, the plot is a solid one which reminds me of a movie, the pacing is so fast you’ll wish it wasn’t over so fast, it’s all phenomenal on that level, just like the art. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an indie kickstarter without a publisher with such good storytelling like this, it’s above and beyond.
My only criticism is it suffers from “strong woman syndrome” where the female leads are of course more bad ass than the men, cuz of course they are. It’s subtle and not called out in this book like so many others these days, but it’s still present in the way the characters behave, making the women feel a lot less realistic than they should be. But the subtle aspects of it make it so it’s not nearly as big a problem as I read in most fiction these days.
Overall, can’t ask for more in a 4-issue graphic novel. I highly recommend it for reading, especially for fans of my For Steam And Country, as you’ll love the similar airship themes.