In Dark Service
Written by: Stephen Hunt
Published by: Gollancz
The first in a new series from fantasy author Stephen Hunt with a decidedly Steampunk feel, In Dark Service follows the fortunes of Jacob Carnehan a local pastor-cum-lawman who has settled in a township with his family. His rebellious son Carter constantly yearns for adventure and travel but as they say, you should be careful what you wish for. When the township is attacked and almost destroyed by slavers, Carter and his peers (including his nemesis Duncan, son of a wealthy local) are taken into slavery via giant airships and sent to work in a dangerous volcanic mine.
Jacob must now juggle his faith and morality as he embarks on a dangerous, almost impossible journey to rescue his son, while Carter and his friends struggle for survival with their brutal captors.
Hunt has created a vast yet detailed world for The Far-Called Sequence series, populated by all manner of wondrous contraptions, massive airships and flying machines set against a rich landscape of varied set-pieces, each playing an important part in the unfolding saga.
There is a temptation with this genre to stick to more opulent prose but thankfully Hunt keeps things in check and rarely oversteps the boundary, keeping the language as simple as possible while still conveying the detail necessary to keep the narrative brisk and convincing.
The only problem I did have with In Dark Service were the characterisations. The teenage characters in particular seemed like just another cut and paste pastiche of YA angry kid, albeit in a slightly more exotic setting, and I found it difficult to maintain empathy for their situation as they came to terms with their captivity. Similarly, I felt Jacob’s understated character needed more development, although towards the story’s climax there was a definite glimpse of a much more interesting character, as well as telltale hints of a backstory that hopefully will be developed further in the series.
Overall, In Dark Service is a promising introduction to what could be a very interesting series and while not without its teething problems, it’s worth an investment especially for fans of the genre or those wishing to dip a toe in the Steampunk pool for the first time.
3 out of 5 Nerds