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The Iron Jackal

Iron Jackal - Chris Wooding

Imagine a situation which became one huge cliché in adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and thriller literature by now. Somebody asks you to steal/deliver a sealed box for a truckload of money with the condition you do not open the said box.

A mysterious box

Anybody who read more than one book in his/her life or saw a couple of summer blockbuster movies knows there is only one way to deal with the situation that guarantees a long and happy life: refuse the deal on the spot, turn away and start running. Stop only when you are on the other side of the Galaxy from the mysterious box; anywhere closer than this will not do. 

The other side of the Galaxy


In the series' universe there are no movies and Captain Frey of Ketty Jay does not read much - it was actually stated in this book. So he fell for the trick above and agreed to steal a box while it was transported by a train. After all, the pay was good and the job seems to be reasonably easy as there supposed to be very few guards on the train. Let me give you a slight spoiler and say that the crew of Ketty Jay succeeded while reenacting a good old Western train robbery in steampunk settings. Captain Frey being completely clueless about the dangers I mentioned above (kids, there is a big lesson here: read more) committed an ultimate sin and opened the box. To a surprise of exactly nobody his life became completely worthless at that exact moment. He spends the rest of the book in a desperate attempt to stay alive. 


The book remains true to the tried-and-true formula of the previous installments. The first line opens with bullets flying everywhere because Frey did something stupid. After killing a lot of innocent bystanders and the guys who just did their job the crew of Ketty Jay escapes unscratched - it seems to me this universe also happened to be a recruiting place for Stormtroopers from Star Wars: the latter guys are famous for shooting at a Death Start at blank point range and never hitting it. 


To continue with the familiar formula, right after getting from the initial danger Frey does something stupid even by his standards and places the entire crew into a very big (even by his standards) jeopardy. The rest of the book is spend on them trying to survive in face of overwhelming odds. 


On the positive side the action of the book is practically non-stop and I could not find boring parts at all. Paradoxically it feels somewhat long; some editing would be in order, but I hesitate to say which parts need to be cut out. 


Captain Frey was completely two-dimensional character in the first book. He became much better in the second only to play a lovesick puppy in here. In the merciful moments when he forgot about his love he just acted stupid; see above. 


Jez of all characters is boring. Those who know what she is would not believe me as it is almost impossible to make her such, but Chris Wooding succeed. My second-favorite cat of literature, Slag does not get too much time and is not exciting although he did become a subject of a great scientific experiment. 

A cat alwyas lands on its feet


Silo finally got well overdue attention and his background is fascinating. His parts are never ever boring. Doctor Malvery finally develops somewhat from a stereotypical perpetual drunkard. Both Pinn and Harkins have their moments, but nothing to write home about. I am 100% unconvinced by the given reasons why the crew put their lives in danger for their captain who is a selfish lovesick drug addict, but I will let it slide. 


In the end I was never bored by reading this installment, but its strict adherence to the same plot as before and the extra length killed the rating. Please do not get me wrong as I gave weaker and more boring books the same rating, but I really cannot go higher.