The Guns Above
by Robyn Bennis
The Guns Above is what I’d call hard Steampunk. It’s about the mechanics of the airship, and the strategies of war, far more than about the characters. There’s little to no character development; Bernat, described as a “shameless flirt” in the cover blurb, really only flirts once, and that with Josette’s mother.
I confess to being disappointed with this book. I was expecting something more character driven, and instead what I got was Steampunk military fiction. There was a LOT of violence, injury, and death, as you’d expect in a real war, especially a war fought with rifles and sabers and cavalry. With the exception of the airships, this is a close-combat kind of war. Rifles are a new-fangled innovation; most people are still using muskets and bayonets. Pistols are rare. Airships are the best technological advancement either side has made, and they’re dependent on bladders of lighter-than-air gas and wooden frameworks. They’re fragile enough a single cannon blast, if aimed right, can take out the entire contraption.
The cover blurb makes it sound as if there could be a romance between Josette and Bernat – nope. Not in the least. Bernat is conscripted by his uncle (the General) to find some dirt on Josette that will let the General demote her without incurring the wrath of the people who view her as a war hero. Bernat’s entirely okay with doing this until some point in the book where he changes his mind for no discernible reason. If he’s decided that Josette is a worthy Captain, I wish that had made it onto the page as a motivation.
And WHY were they at war? Even the characters struggle to explain it. They’re just perpetually at war for no good reason.
The action was good. The strategies were good. The characters and world-building fell very, very flat.
From the cover of The Guns Above:
THEY SAY IT’S NOT THE FALL THAT KILLS YOU.
For Josette Dupre, the Aerial Signal Corps’s first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.
On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested death trap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. Bernat’s own secret assignment is to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.
So when the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself?