In Soldier of Fortune, Kathleen McClure has created a fascinating future steampunk world on a planet called Fortune which was colonised by refugees from Earth. The settlers landed without knowledge of the advanced tech that enabled them to make the trip to the new world, the idea being that without it, they would be less likely to destroy the planet in the way humans had on Earth.
When a crystal power source was found technology advanced, but only to the point of airships and steam vehicles, thus, though not set on Earth in the late 19th century, this fantasy has a distinct steampunk flavour. The power source became the cause of a war, but it’s over when this story begins.
The world of Fortune has the roughness of a frontier society and we meet our central character Gideon Quinn in a brutal prison, where he was sent after an incident during the war. We find out why in bits and pieces as the author weaves flashbacks in throughout the unfolding story. It’s a risky format, but Ms McClure pulls it off. Gideon gets a reprieve and sets off for Nike city in search for the man that killed 6 of the Corps he lead and forced him to sign a confession for the supposed crime.
The plot is an unpredictable series of events that lead, among other things, to the unravelling of the identity of a mystery spy. It was one of those stories I just wanted to keep on reading, not just because of the great story, but also because of the characters and the great mix of humour and action packed drama.
Gideon meets a dodger called Mia and has a pet draco called Elvis, a reptile resembling a small dragon, and both characters are complex, likeable and well-drawn. The secondary characters are also well-rounded.
The central characters, though rough around the edges are ‘decent’ people, actually I like to call such characters noble characters because, though they are willing to kill those they deem deserving of it, they are always willing to lend a hand to those in need of one. They also respect those on a different side if they’re just earning a buck and it’s nothing personal.
The prose is excellent with great rhythm, punctuated with lovely quips, but the book does need a proofread. Had it not had the many copy errors, I would have given this 5 stars. As it is I can only give it 3 stars, and that’s being generous, because I don’t want to put people off what is, despite this problem, a great read. It wasn’t bad enough for me to walk away from the story, but only because the story and characterisation were excellent.
If you like sci fi with a steampunk flavour and can put up with a bunch of copy errors, then I recommend this book, but it doesn’t seem fair that if the author isn’t prepared to pay an editor to proofread their work that we should have to pay to buy it. Luckily, I got it on a promo. I’d have been annoyed if I’d paid full price for it.
On the planet Fortune, tech is low, tensions high and heroes… unlikely.
Wrongly convicted of treason, Gideon Quinn spent six years harvesting crystal under the killing suns of the Morton Barrens. When a general of the Corps arrives with an offer of freedom and the chance to clear his name, Gideon doesn’t have to think twice. With his pet draco Elvis on his shoulder, Gideon takes ‘ship for Nike City on a quest for justice (or, failing that, revenge). What he finds is a dodger named Mia, a city steeped in corruption, and a menace at the heart of the Corps which could bring Fortune’s new and fragile peace to an explosive end.
And that’s just his first night in town.