There’s something almost natural about treating the sea and the sky as if they were the same, or very similar. Both are vast expanses to which human beings cannot naturally travel. The language of space travel is predicated on a metaphor with sea travel; science fiction is filled with space ships, and naval classifications are likewise common (note that in Star Wars, the “destroyer” part of “Star Destroyer” is the type of ship).
Disney’s Treasure Planet makes the metaphor literal, as does Bennett Coles’ novel Winds of Marque. Lilian Horn’s Perils of Sea and Sky, to be released by the Rising Action Publishing Collective in September, is another entry in this genre.
Perils of Sea and Sky is set in a world clearly based on Europe, in particular during the eighteenth century, albeit with the addition of airships and some other miscellaneous technologies. Overall, the feeling is very much like Treasure Planet, although parts of the worldbuilding feel a bit out-of-place. For example, firearms that use plasma to fire. It feels too science fictional in a broadly fantastic setting.
Otherwise, though, Horn’s worldbuilding is properly engrossing. Much of the plot is an expedition to parts unknown, and that “unknown” is suitably eerie, with an odd and sometimes unsettling aesthetic that can border on outright horror with a Scandinavian twist to it. The horrors here are vividly realized. I especially liked one subplot where a character is trapped in an inventive way; it got under my skin in the best way possible.
Similarly, Horn’s urban settings are well-realized, playing host to a bureaucracy that feels alternatively pleasingly and frustratingly real (but in a good way, I stress).
Two of the characters shine: a lawyer trying to find his father lost in the unknown and the lady sky captain he hires to find his ship. The two have good interactions, with the lawyer, used to comfort, constantly having his preconceptions dashed by a reality to which the captain is quotidian. There is much witty dialogue, all well-executed.
The novel stumbles a bit with the other characters. Horn introduces a great many, and they can be hard to keep track of. Few of them have distinctive enough voices to stand out.
The plot is ultimately nothing special for the genre, but it is executed competently. Horn sets up the story well, and her pacing is better than most debut novels I’ve read. Overall, I wouldn’t call Perils of Sea and Sky a spectacular book, but it will absolutely scratch your itch for airships and high adventure. On the whole, I quite enjoyed it.
Pre-order the book here.