by Stephen Hunt
Harper Voyager Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780007289707
Date: 07 July 2011 List Price £12.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
Stephen Hunt's fifth novel to be set in Victorian-style world of The Court of the Air (which I reviewed with mixed feelings a couple of years ago). Jack Cloudie is a trade paperback release from Harper Voyager, and - interestingly - features an all new cover look.
"Thanks to his father's gambling debts, young Jack Keats finds himself on the streets and trying to survive as a pickpocket, desperate to graft enough coins to keep him and his two younger brothers fed.
Following a daring bank robbery gone badly awry, Jack narrowly escapes the scaffold, only to be pressed into Royal Aerostatical Navy. Assigned to the most useless airship in the fleet, serving under a captain who is most probably mad, Jack seems to be bound for almost certain death in the far-away deserts of Cassarabia.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Omar ibn Barir, the slave of a rich merchant lord finds his life turned upside down when his master's religious sect is banned. Unexpectedly freed, he survives the destruction of his home to enter into the service of the Caliph's military forces – just as war is brewing.
Two very similar young men prepare to face each other across a senseless field of war. But is Omar the enemy, or is Jack's true nemesis the sickness at the heart of the Caliph's court? A cult that hides the deadly secret to the origins of the gas being used to float Cassarabia's new aerial navy.
If Jack and his shipmates can discover what Cassarabia's aggressive new regime is trying to conceal, he might survive the most horrific of wars and clear his family's name. If not..."