Wings of Equity by Sean Kennedy

Rating: 6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 
Title: Wings of Equity
Author: Sean Kennedy
Genre: Steampunk
URL: Dreamspinner Press
Price: US$6.99
Other Information/warnings: Violence, explicit m/m
Summary [from the publisher]:

Ezra Kneebone is most at home in the skies, piloting his airship with his best friend Jazz, even if it doesn’t quite pay the bills or warm Ezra’s empty bed. Those same skies are also the territory of a man known as Icarus, who uses his metal wings to steal from the rich and feed the poor. Icarus and Ezra could be soul mates but for one thing: Icarus has a bounty on his head, and Ezra is desperate for money.

Against the wishes of Jazz and her partner, the formidable Lady Bart, Ezra is determined to get his man… in more ways than one. But when Icarus saves Ezra’s life, Ezra realizes he would be betraying a hero—and his heart—if he turned Icarus in. Unfortunately, the bounty is tempting more than one hunter, and Ezra will find that loving a fugitive may mean becoming one too.

My review: This is the first steampunk I’ve ever read, I think, though I’ve read plenty of  science fiction that plays with elements of steampunk and I’m a huge fan of my friend, Kiri Moth’s steampunk art. And the author is a truly nice guy I like a lot. I really wanted to like this one, dear readers.

It’s not awful. But it’s not great either. I didn’t find the steampunk elements engaging, and the little jokes about versions of devices were a distraction rather than really amusing. In short, I found it a horrible mishmash of styles and ideas, some science fictiony, some fantasy, some reimagined Victoriana. I can’t tell if this is normal for this genre, but if it is, I won’t be reading more.

The dialogue is also a horrible mishmash of American and British period and modern slang, with some downright awkward word choices. I lost patience with it early on, which didn’t help me overlook the other flaws with the book.

If I’m trying to be positive, I would say this would make a cracking film. In a movie, the things that bugged me in the book- the cardboard characterisation, the totally unrealistic medicine (please, Sean, and your editor – read this, and look up how bullet wounds actually injure, and how they are treated) and the lack of scene setting, wouldn’t matter because the visuals would fill in the gaps. Seriously, I think this should and could be shopped as a screenplay, because the basic story, while not particularly original or deep, would really suit the film medium very well. But as a book…sadly the flaws stand out. None of the characters came alive to me, and were quite stereotyped. While I applaud the author for including a properly realised lesbian couple, Bart and Jazz didn’t feel any more vivid than Ezra and Icarus, being a collection of repeated stances on limited (and rather stereotypically female) issues, and there wasn’t the space in this novel to give them the background they needed. Length would have helped the entire book, but the lack of vivacity, of vividness, lay as much in the quality as the quantity of text. It was all rather sketchy, and so uninvolving.

Technically, other than the many awkward word choices, the line editing was okay, but the editor needs to give this author stronger guidance. Whether there’s anyone at DSP who can do that, I highly doubt, and is one of the reasons I am learning to avoid books from this press.

There’s nothing offensive about this book, unless you are horrible irritated (as I am) by flat out stupid medicine, and if you want a timewaster, or beach read, then this is fine. But there was so much wasted potential here, and in the end, I couldn’t find the time I spent reading it, worth it. Constant readers know I’m a picky cow, so your mileage may vary. And the author is a sweetie (unlike so many in this genre), if that matters to you. I wish I could recommend it.