It has been a decade since The Court of the Air first appeared. It has seemingly gone unnoticed except for a few hardcore fans. The first book in the Jackelian series, and arguably its best, it has a Star Wars meets The Wizard of Oz feel and borrows from China Miéville’s Bas-Lag series but still builds a very original world.
The Court of the Air‘s Kingdom of Jackals is one of the most elaborate worlds in all of steampunk fiction and a must-visit for steampunk fantasy fans. It includes magic, steam-powered men (steam-men), various humanoid races, airship navies and underground insect kingdoms.
The story starts out in Middlesteel, the capital of Jackals protected by the powerful Jackelian airship navy. There are also steam-men countries ruled by a steam-man king. Jackals’ neighbor is fenced off by an invisible curse fence that doesn’t allow the impoverished people to cross into Jackals.
The story follows the narrative of two characters: Molly Templar and Oliver Brooks. Both are orphans that develop Jedi-like powers. The two make their way through the kingdom to do battle with a dark force from the past.
Throughout the Jackelian series, author Stephen Hunt takes his cues from popular stories and incorporates them into his rich steampunk fantasy. The Court of the Air contains elements of Star Wars and what could be considered an X-Men-like group. The sequels draw inspiration from Indian Jones, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Princess of Mars and Batman.