NB—I received a free copy for review courtesy of Book Sirens, all opinions are my own
I love this cover, it made me want to read the book, it reflects actual events in the book, and it brings Rachel to life before you even begin reading, showing her appearance and hinting at her personality
“First rule of piracy: be in the wrong place at the right time” Pirate Captain Genevieve Jones puts this rule to the test when she and her ship, the Heart of Gold, attack an airship carrying the recently betrothed Duchess of Albany, Lalita Laffel. When the final war of the Old Gods destroyed the seas, the Liberty Empire rose from the ruins and conquered the skies- but its control may be slipping as pirates roam, occultists dabble in profane magics left by dispossessed gods and disgruntled colonies ferment trouble.
Magic hunter Rachel Masters has been dispatched to Albany by Talon’s Inquisition, to recover a legendary and dangerous magical weapon left by the gods before it can be used against the Empire. When the archbishop refuses to allow Rachel access to the Sanctus Treasury, she realizes that she will need assistance from the Duchess Lalita, who unfortunately must first be rescued from the mercenary clutches of the elusive pirate Genevieve Jones.
Before turning to piracy, Genevieve served in the Liberty navy, but her experiences left her with old scars and a terrible burden to carry. Finding a rich bounty for her renegade crew is now Genevieve’s priority- but fate has set these strong women on a collision course as they uncover ancient rivalries and treacherous magic’s that threaten not only the Empire, but the world!
This book contained a lot of surefire elements to make me enjoy a book—pirates, shifting loyalties, tangled character backstories and a thoroughly developed world the reader is thrown into. But I’m not going to lie, that last element was done a little much, and it sometimes seemed like this wasn’t the first book in the series. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of Guns of Liberty, a lot is made clearer; but some elements—mostly centred around Rachel—are simply meant to be taken on faith, and I prefer to have character traits be more strongly motivated by events that happen, or are at least hinted at, in-book.
Rachel’s instant animosity for Gin, her faith, her relationship with Admiral Halie, and how she (by all accounts a hot head) was somehow made responsible for the first visit on behalf of the Church to a fractious conquered state simply were not explained enough for me to become fully immersed in the book. I’d also have appreciated some more detail on the politic situation, because the reader was absolutely supposed to be on one side in the war, but we weren’t given any reason to be on that side in particular. I assume the book is loosely based on American politics during the civil war, and being Australian, I do not have enough historical knowledge to understand where my sympathies ‘should’ lie.
I was very interested by Gin, and look forward to seeing more of her in future books, now that her character and backstory have been fleshed out a little. I was reminded, at various points in Guns of Liberty, of Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and Gin reminds me of Gwen quite a bit. I only hope that Rachel’s motivations and character become as developed as Bridget’s (from the same novel) so that their interplay gains the level of emotional depth and realism that it could have.
Duchess Lalita was an interesting side character, I appreciated her role in society and her interactions with Gin and the other Liberty pirates was a great way to develop her personality. I was also glad to see an atypical take on arranged marriages, especially in a more historically-based nobility system, where arranged marriages would certainly be the norm. In terms of well-crafted supporting characters, Bishop Fremen and Goodman (of Gin’s crew) were also great to read.
I loved that religion played a role in the politics of this world, and I was glad that further development of the faith/magic system of the world was hinted at. The magic system reminded me at times of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, and at others of Diana Pharaoh Francis’s Crosspointe Chronicles, and I truly hope that in future books these comparisons remain apt.
In all, Guns of Liberty was a solid beginning to what promises to be a sprawling and engrossing fantasy world. I’d recommend the book to those who enjoy swashbuckling naval/aerial based adventure in the vein of Diana Pharaoh Francis’s The Black Ship or Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and who prefer their fantasy worlds to develop slowly over the course of a series, as in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels.