Today we have Lexa Roi Clarke’s steampunk novel, Skyskipper (The Ballad of Bailey Jo).
The story takes place in a fictional nineteenth-century world. Lonely orphan Bailey Jo (no last name) makes a living as a transporter. Whether it’s people or contraband, she’ll deliver it for you.
At the novel’s outset, she makes a rather rough landing in the town of Wellington while transporting a group of people there in her airship Draggle. The passengers angrily disembark and Bailey Jo proceeds to steal a part she needs to fix the dirigible. She soon runs into a street performer named Ollie Arkwright, who greatly upsets her by pretending to destroy her most cherished possession.
Infuriated, she leaves but is soon accosted by a group of thugs. Fortunately, Ollie shows up to save her with a large (fake) gun. She thanks him by offering to transport him somewhere.
Ultimately, though, her dream is to find the mythical floating city of Landover.
Ollie decides to come along for the ride. Unfortunately, for reasons Bailey Jo is reluctant to divulge, she’s become the quarry of a powerful figure known only as the Professor. The Professor sends Jackdaws — mechanical birdlike assassins — after her. The pair goes from place to place, dodging the Jackdaws and meeting all sorts of colorful characters in their quest for answers.
Just who is the Professor and why is he, or she, so interested in Bailey Jo? How does Ollie’s father fit into all this? What happened to Bailey Jo’s sister? And is Bailey Jo really who she claims to be?
This is a very worthwhile read. It’s well-written and features a veritable rogue’s gallery of characters. Most of them have embraced mechanization of their bodies, so they’ll definitely keep your interest.
I also quite enjoyed the action sequences. Lexa Roi Clarke really has a flair for cinematic scenes. Even though it’s just a novel, I felt like I was watching a movie. Any time you can say that about a book, you know you’ve got one worth reading.
Normally I have a complaint or two about the novels I read, but not this one. It’s just that good.