“The Outlaws of Kratzenfels” is a fun, fast paced action-adventure young-adult novel where fantasy meets science in a delightful steampunk manner. We watch as Princess Helda has her kingdom stolen from her, and witness the lengths she goes to get it back, the dark secrets of her parent’s death, the creation of the new Iron Knights, and we meet the raggedy crew she finds along the way. There are so many fun little tidbits going on in Jones’s book—and he writes wonderfully, with fun dialogue and situational humor—that I was yearning for more! Unfortunately, at parts, the lack of “more” actually hurt this entertaining book. Allow me explain.
This book is a really quick read, both in its fast action-packed pacing, and in its length. This book isn’t even 200 pages long! If you are looking for a book you can knock out in an afternoon or two that is relatively light but still lots of fun and does an admirable job of blending fantasy with its steampunk elements, then read this book! But, for me, that was also part of the problem. Jones has the structure of his world all set up, he’s crafted some fun characters with strong personalities—I really liked Helda, who I never got the damsel-in-distress vibe from even in her most dire of circumstances—but you never see much of the world, or get to know much about any of the characters. This book feels like it started about three-quarters of the way through, well past all the set-up.
Don’t get me wrong, this is usually a good thing as it means the book is off to a running start, but it never stops running. We never slow down long enough to get to know what happened before Kratzenfels’ fall. Which may not have been a problem, except for when you meet certain characters who then, through dialogue usually tell us what their relationship is to either Helda, or the villain Count von Falkenhorst. This became especially problematic in the last three chapters. I won’t spoil anything, because I do think this book is worth picking up for fans of this genre, but new characters are suddenly introduced that conveniently help Helda when she desperately needs it when there is no whisper of them earlier on, and they also have a fierce loyalty to Helda’s family that we are told about, and expected to believe.
This also happens in the opposite way, where we are told “Hey, this person is important” and then, at the end, because with the novels length there is no back-story or in depth world-building, are told, “Just kidding! This is actually the truth, don’t worry about the rest”. Had Jones expanded his story a bit, and taken his time on some of those characters and the world they inhabit, those moments in the last few chapters would not feel as contrived as they do, and this book would have been near flawless outside of the few POV mix ups between a close third, to an omniscient third person point of view.
Despite this though, I do eagerly await the sequel! The author makes “The Outlaws of Kratzenfels” a complete story, with just enough of “cliff-hanger” to make me confident that there will be a sequel, but not frustrated by the ending, either. Like I said, my only complaint is with the book’s length, as there are so many fun characters that are introduced—and I love the German / Frankenstein feel of it all—but the reader is not allowed to spend much time with them, which is a shame, as Jones does make such fun characters. Here’s hoping the next book takes its time with the world building and gives its endearing characters more of a chance to entertain the reader. But as is, this book is a well-deserved 4 stars from me. Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy for review!
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