One of my great sorrows at work is that most of the books that pass over my desk aren’t interesting to me in the least. So it was much to my delight that I discovered a copy of Stephen Hunt’s Secrets of the Fire Sea on my desk last week. It was a UK edition, since the US version doesn’t release for another couple months and that made it that much more exciting. I’ve been reading this series for a few years now and I have often lamented that the US editions are arriving more than a year after the original UK publication. It should be criminal I tell ya.
This latest tale from the Hunt’s strange earth-like alternate world is set on the island of Jago, deep within the Fire Sea, a wide stretch of ocean laced with currents of magma that create a moving lattice of boiling water and molten rock. The story opens with young Hannah Conquest, an orphaned ward of the church, who becomes involved in sinister machinations that lead to the death of an archbishop. This leads to Jethro Gaunt, an ex-priest, being sent to Jago to investigate the murder and uncover whatever evildoers are at work.
With this fourth book, Hunt restrains himself a bit by keeping the action confined to a single island, and mostly a single city. Hunt’s world holds a profusion of strange races, but this tale revolves around humans and the ursine Pericur. Though the story doesn’t range as far as some of the other books in the series, the cast of characters is just as colorful and the strange super-science wonders are just as shiny. The wily submarine pirate, Commodore Black, is along for the ride, providing a string of continuity with the previous books.
If you’ve been reading the other books, then this book will be a delightful addition, as I thought it was the strongest since the original, The Court of the Air. Even if you haven’t read any of Hunt’s other books, this book makes a great jumping off point into his world. I really can’t say enough good things about this series. Hunt has taken every awesome super-science and steampunk trope and thrown them together in a super-punk-bouillabaisse. These are seriously great books.
I really don’t want to get far into the plot of Secrets of the Fire Sea, as it would be easy to start spilling the beans on all the twists and turns packed in there. Suffice to say that I didn’t see all of the villains coming and there were surprising shifts of fortune all throughout the second half of the book.
If any of this sounds like fun to you, I can’t encourage you enough to read these books. They are awesome!
Previous books in the series: