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Guns of Liberty by Jamie Mauchline – SPFBO Review

Guns of Liberty (cover)“First rule of piracy: be in the wrong place at the right time.”

Guns of Liberty is an age of sail fantasy where airships rule the skies, pirates stalk the misty main, and occultists dabble in profane magics left behind by dispossessed gods.

Join Rachel Masters, Inquisitor of the Liberty Empire and the Holy Church of Talon, as she sets sail to discover the source of ancient magic artifact that could bring war to the empire, and secure it before it can fall into the wrong hands.

But she’s not the only one looking for the artifact. And when the elusive pirate captain Genevieve Jones kidnaps a duchess, Rachel might have just met her match. If she’s going to rescue the duchess, secure the artifact, and save the empire she’ll need to put aside her prejudices and find unlikely allies.

Guns of Liberty is a swashbuckling read from beginning to end. A black powder fantasy with highly engaging characters. Whether a main character or a minor cast member, every one of them is very well realized. It brims with action throughout. Battles, dagger fights, kidnapping, and the politics and intrigue that move the story along, are fascinating without bogging down the tale. In fact, the political machinations fuel the storyline, and have a huge impact on everyone.

Aside from a couple slight stumbles in the first chapters, the prose grows much tighter as the depth of the story digs in. Getting all the details, names, and roles amid a lot of action, you may find everyone hard to keep track of at first. It’s redeeming quality is the characterizations are done well enough to recognize and put the players firmly in your mind as the story moves along.

Piracy and naval battles have got to be some of the most exciting settings we love to read in fantasy. Put them in airships, with meticulously researched action, and you have a whole new level of danger and action. The story smacks of excellent research in both air and sea vessels, and most importantly, the battles are simply riveting.

Guns of Liberty doesn’t shy from the details of blood and death, using cannon shot and flintlock and plenty of sword fighting in between. A well-done air battle ensues, and the book is off to a roaring start. The decks be awash in blood, and as readers, we were both fascinated and horrified. The entire time, trying to suss out the bad guys from the good.

In this well imagined story, we get strong female protagonists who are the center of the tale. The first is Genevieve Jones, new captain of the pirate airship Heart of Gold and a bit of an enigma. The story opens during the onset of her claiming her first prize as captain and deftly moves through the ships, their details, and the characters aboard them. Genevie is a mystery, a fighter of the highest caliber, and a master at her craft. She’ll leave you shaken and anxiously awaiting more of her story.

Inquisitor Rachel Masters has a navy background and has become an Inquisitor for the church. Ostensibly escorting the duchess Lolita to the state of Albany in the city of Sanctus for her imminent wedding. We meet her aboard the flagship guarding the ship Genevieve is about to attack. Rachel also has a second agenda aside escorting the duchess, a secret one, and it didn’t include Genevieve Jones.

Rachel is secretly there to access the treasure vaults of the reluctant monarchy, which only happens when a dowry is accessed. As there are no Inquisitors in this country, she’s treading dangerous ground, treated with suspicion and mistrust. The continent of Astrimar has long been a vassal of the Holy Church of Talon, but far removed and under little control by their leaders. Rachel is on a mission from the Church of Talon, and they’ve been collecting the dangerous magic artifacts left from the War of the Gods against Talon, who smote them centuries earlier. The artifacts must be recovered before they fall into the wrong hands.

Genevie and Rachel are pitted against one another from the very start. We know Rachel’s motivations, but not yet Genevieve’s. Both are pawns in a larger game and there is a much more complicated mystery surrounding the action. Their missions bring them clashing into one another world’s, but who will bend and who will break?

With a kidnapped duchess, a search for a magic relic, and a conspiracy to topple to Church of Talon, the plots races through events set in place decades ago by power hungry men. Strong female characters, a great mystery, and strange magic, make this a pleasure to read.

A couple of cons were in the beginning, but this is the only place where the details are heavy. That’s in the description of the ships themselves and where we meet most of the major players. The worldbuilding is done through the characters and action. It is intricate and believable. Each characterization is a discovery in itself, and the thrill of friend or foe, will keep you on your toes.

For these reasons, when the scores were averaged, Guns of Liberty came in second out of our thirty books. Nevertheless, for fans of black powder fantasy, steampunk, strong female leads, and complex magic and mystery, Guns of Liberty could be your next favorite read!

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