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Tin Swift: The Age of Steam (Cedar Hunt) by Devon Monk
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451464538
Date: 03 July 2012 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Cedar Hunt promised he would help Mae Lindson return to her coven in Kansas, and that he would assist the three Madder brothers in recovering the eldritch weapon known as the Holder. With the help of his wolf-bound brother and deviser Rose Small, he intends to keep that promise.

But the machinations of an evil ex-general and a deathless Strange enemy may be more than this werewolf can handle...

More by Devon Monk:
Allie Beckstrom series:
* Magic to the Bone
* Magic In the Blood
* Magic in the Shadows
* Magic on the Storm
* Magic at the Gate
* Magic on the Line
* Magic Without Mercy
* Magic for a Price
The Age of Steam: Cedar Hunt:
* Dead Iron
* Tin Swift

In Tin Swift, Devon Monk continues the steampunk/Western adventures of Cedar Hunt and his motley crew. Mae Lindson is wracked by the demands of her coven, which often leave her bereft of her wits; Rose Small is seeking new adventures out in the world; and the Madder brothers want only to get the Holder, which was scattered to the four winds.

When they come to a tiny town named Vicinity, they discover that everyone in town has been murdered...and torn into tiny pieces, with several missing. Hunt immediately suspects the work of an enemy, but it cannot be; the one he has in mind was very thoroughly killed. But even so...

Then an explosive trap infects Rose with a tiny piece of the tin component of the Holder. By itself, the tin item killed the whole town and reanimated the corpses; with it stuck in Rose Small's shoulder, it is only a matter of time before she dies--and perhaps rises again as a Strange.

Cedar and the Madders nearly come to blows over how to proceed, only to have Cedar and the women rescued by Capt. Hink Cage and his airship, the Swift. Cage and his crew ordinarily reap glim, the luminous green dust, from the airless reaches above the highest mountains; right now, though, they are being hunted by Gen. Alabaster Saint and his murderous crew of renegade airship captains and mutilated soldiers. Cage cost Saint dearly, and the one-eyed general intends to make Cage suffer tenfold in return.

Cage is reluctant to keep Hunt and his allies aboard, until his engineer Molly Gregor sees a keepsake in Rose Small's possession and unexpectedly vouches for them. Irritated but yielding to necessity, Cage joins forces with Hunt and his group, finding rather quickly that they share some common goals as well as a common enemy.

Chased by enemy airships, the valiant Swift is battered and forced to land in a shipyard cleaved from a mountain pass. Rose is getting worse and Hink Cage himself has been enchanted by a desperate bit of magic, but things could be worse...and soon enough, they are.

In their uncertain refuge, they encounter a trio of adventurers who will prove to be very helpful going forward. If they can survive the merciless Saint and his army of rebuilt veterans, that is.

Monk delivers a high-powered sequel in this volume, putting her heroes into ever-increasing danger and raising the stakes. Although the Strange try to turn the tables, and some tire of what looks like an unending battle against mankind's enemies, Hunt and his small group manage to defy the odds through heroic courage, pluck and a refusal to quit.

Cedar Hunt is little changed from when first seen, a man whose "curse" transforms him into a beast for three nights every month. Now, however, he is beginning to get a handle on this curse, with help from the Madder brothers and Mae Lindson, and it might mark the turning point in his battle with himself.

On the other hand, Mae Lindson herself is wracked with the demands of her coven to return, return, return, and the stress is driving her insane. Her lucid days are good ones but her loss of focus proves devastating at times, especially when the crew is forced to depend upon her erratic sanity.

Hink Cage is a neat addition to the setting, an airship captain with a secret (or two), who inspires loyalty from his crew. He's a bit like Mal Reynolds from Firefly, although his crew is far smaller and a bit less violent. His role in the story is a great one, though, as the victim (and beneficiary) of Mae's confounded wits (and magic).

The enemy of the tale is appropriately villainous, and it might not be a great surprise when an earlier antagonist joins forces with Saint to cause trouble for Hunt's people. Saint has a plan that could bring the Union to its knees, with only Hunt and Cage to stop him. His plan provides the dramatic thrust of the novel, as the heroes uncover it bit by bit and then must decide what to do...and what sacrifices they're prepared to make.

A rousing good read and a very worthy sequel, this book is a standout among the recent crop of steampunk/supernatural westerns on the shelves.

Recommended.

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