The last Finalist Review for SPFBO – Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon

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We are finished! Much earlier than expected, for reasons most people can guess I’m not in the headspace to write a review of my own. I have rushed this review out because I need to be done with the internet. I will be using Superstardrifter’s review as our bulk and only review. There will be three scores at the end however.

Superstar’s Review:

This is (among other things) the story of Serena, who is a 16-year-old orphan who lives in the city of Dalthea. Dalthea is a desert city after a bomb dropped in a war with the Idari has ruined all of their natural sources of water. They have technology that allows Spires to cause thunderstorms and use airships from the Raincatcher Guild to collect water from them. Serena apprentices on one of these airships. She doesn’t remember her parents, but she is strange in that her hair is green. Also she has the ability to control animals somewhat, which is rather strange as well.

It is also the story of Tyson Gallows who is a former soldier and now bounty hunter who takes on everything from catching criminals to exterminating giant snakes on a cattle ranch. When he goes on the hunt for the assassin of a city official, he and Serena end up joining forces and together with a group of Raincatchers, soldiers, and bounty hunters, they uncover all kinds of shady shenanigans happening behind the scenes.

First of all, I should not have started this book at 11 o’clock at night. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem, you see, since I’m never really expecting a book to grab me in the first chapter. Well, this one indeed grabbed me and before I knew it, it was 4am and I had to put it down or not sleep at all (alas, I do need my sleeps). I don’t know why I always seem to forget that I frigging love me some steampunk until I’m in the middle of a steampunk novel. Hrnng. Love love love.

At one point this book turned into something like a steampunk Resident Evil, and let me tell you people, I was so on board for it, and that it was a little unexpected, because I don’t normally go in for zombie stuff. These are… only sort of zombies though, and very, very different than anything else zombie-like that I’ve ever read. This whole book is somewhat like and then really not at all like a great many things I’ve read, actually.

I really liked Tyson as a character, and I rooted for him. He’s snarky, takes risks, and is often badass AF, so he was an exciting character to follow. I also liked Serena as the story went on. She keeps trying to use these powers to different effect. But, my favorite character in this one was Gallows’ partner Damien Fieri. Mysterious for much of the book, I wanted to know what his deal was. I mean I really wanted to know what his deal was. And we do find out. That said, given his situation, seeing things from his point of view was often interesting.

We see this story from the point of view of several characters, not the least of which are Serena and Tyson. We also see the story from the POV of several secondary characters, such as Captain Fitzwilliam, the Captain of the Liberty Wind, the ship which Serena occasionally serves on; Damien, the mysterious and talented Hunter; Tiera, the first mate on the Liberty Wind; and Valentine, a soldier. The point of view tends to shift around a lot, sometimes between three and four times per chapter. I worried that this was going to be an issue for me, as this was one of the things that Esme had trouble with in this book, but I found that it didn’t bother me at all. I liked seeing these things happen from a different perspective all in one chapter.

So, the plot was gripping, and the main characters were easy to cheer for. The world was interesting, and well built. I could imagine this corrupt city that once flourished and is now slowly dying of thirst. It was well written and well edited. It is often dark, which I enjoyed, but still light enough that it wasn’t a depressing read. There were parts that legitimately made me smile, or laugh.

This is quite a long book, but it never felt too long, because the plot was significantly twisty and turny, so it was always engaging and easy to sit and read for hours at a time. There was always something going on, whether it was steampunk Thunder Plains adventures, steampunk Resident Evil, or steampunk dogfighting aircraft. As the story went on, I found myself at the metaphorical edge of my seat for all the unexpected things that were happening. And unexpected things do happen quite often. The last half of this book I read in one sitting, and again, this is not a short book. That was 4 or so hours of reading at one time, and I have to tell you that’s rare for me to even sit still for 4 entire hours in a row.

ffx_hd_thunder_plains
I can’t help myself. This is what I pictured the Raincatchers going up against. I was super-pro at dodging lightning though, if you guys need some tips. You want that Onion Knight? I gotchu. 👌

So, all told… did I save the best for last? Welp… I wasn’t trying to, but I uh… yeah, I think that maybe I did. Of course ‘best’ is entirely subjective here, and this contest is subjective AF. So…. my best, let us say. It certainly pressed most of my buttons. Steampunk, Mysterious Character, Snarky AF Character, Mythical Creatures. Ladies Kicking Ass, probably one of the best scenes of the bad guy getting his comeuppance that I have ever read, and then a godsdamned Ghostbusters reference. So yeah. Really enjoyed myself here, and I can’t wait until more stories in this world can get jammed into my brainspace.

Kristen’s score: 9/10

Coffee’s score: 8.5/10 

Esme’s Score: 8/10

Final Score: 8.5/10 

This can also be marked as our “favorite” finalist, Mark. 

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