I loved the first book in the Skysail Saga, “The Apotheosis Break”. But I read the first book in 2017, not terribly long after it first came out, and the sequel, “The Gestalt Job” was published at the end of 2019. So, to say there has been a lapse where I had a hard time remembering important details would be an understatement. Which wasn’t helped by the fact that this book starts with our main character, Vasili, having forgotten big chunks of what occurred in the previous adventure as well. It’s part of the mystery woven throughout the whole story, so it is by design, but even so. Vasili remembers bits and pieces of his past adventure, the theft of the shard at a nobles party, the betrayal, a lost friend, and his own harrowing escape, but what he doesn’t remember is how he got from that escape to being back on the airship with the same crew who might have been the cause of that betrayal. The same crew who still don’t seem to want to, or are able to, tell Vasili about the one thing he craves above all else: stories of the father he never knew. A lot of the themes in this book are the same as its predecessor: innocent, naïve little Vasili fumbling in a world he doesn’t understand but is determined to be Vasili the Brave all the same. So, what I wanted were the answers Vasili has been on a quest for over the course of this series. Instead, the mystery only got deeper.
The steampunk vibes are all still there, the way the airships operate and the quest to get these shards in order to power incredible machines that border on magic are in full swing, but I definitely needed some sort of recap, as the book can feel a bit like diving into the deep end both with terminology of the airships and with what’s happening to Vasili and why. But where this book shines is its distinctive dialogue. All the characters have such unique voices and personalities that really shine through their banter. So while there is a lot of dialogue (and some really long chapters) I didn’t mind because I enjoyed reading the character interactions. The characters all tease these really in-depth backstories and traumas through a war-torn country that I wish we got more of, but Vasili is such an ignorant kid that there’s just too much to unpack. I do like that Vasili isn’t the typical YA hero where he is suddenly better and more adept than the adults at everything, it was a refreshing change, but it did get a bit tiresome at times. Vasili acts much younger than his years and he seems to know literally nothing thanks to the mystery around his spotty memory. It was a charming plot device for a while, but toward the end I became desperate for the authors to provide me and Vasili with some kind of closure or an epiphany, or something!
Even though it has been a while since I read the first book, I do remember the first installment of the story being a lot more exciting. More close calls, and more the adventure that Vasili so loves to read about in his fiction novels. This book was markedly slower, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that I felt like I was waiting a very long time for the plot to pick up and get going. Our crew has been commandeered by a Judge to hunt down a ruthless shard thief, and somehow Vasili is the key to catching this person. But so much time is spent with our characters just trying to catch up and teach Vasili how to be a deckhand, that often I felt like I forgot what we were supposed to be doing up in the skies. Especially as no one seems to either know, or care to explain to Vasili why people care so much about him—all he knows is it has to do with his father but no one will tell him why. We get snippets here and there as Vasili eavesdrops on the crew, but it never really felt like enough.
This is still an excellent steampunk series, one where the steampunk elements are ingrained in the world as a whole, into the culture of every nation the reader is taken to. It’s not just a cool vibe the authors added, and I love that! When the action is there, it’s exciting and explosive and will have you racing through the chapter to find out what happens next, but I just felt like there wasn’t enough of it to truly balance the book out. Plus, the book ends in a very similar place to where it started and that was the most disappointing thing to me of all, and why this book is getting 4 stars from me. The characters are fantastic, the world is full and expertly crafted, but Vasili can be frustrating at times and too many of the promises and mysteries that we started with still remain by the books end, which makes me worried that the third book will see just more of what we already got with “The Gestalt Job”. Only time will tell, but thanks to the authors for providing me a copy for an honest review!
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