Review: Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D Hawkins

Swashbuckling Airship Adventure

This is the kind of book you have always wished to read, but you didn’t know that it existed. It’s essentially the story of a dashing pirate captain in the midst of an opium raid, but the wrinkle that makes this story especially unique is that a significant amount of action takes place on floating airships. Imagine a World War II zeppelin with Captain Hook’s ship dangling beneath and you have a nice starting point for the type of mental state you’re going to engage throughout this work. There is a certain amount of romance and magic just in the image of a floating pirate ship. Who wouldn’t want to spend a little time in a world that can boast things like that?

This book is billed as “steampunk” and although that term is accurate, this is kind of an entry-level example of the genre in my opinion. I’ve read some steampunk with some pretty wild conceptualizations (to the point that they distract from the functionality of the novel as a whole) and that’s not the case here. I’m by no means a steampunk expert, and I liked the balance that this book struck. My guess is that it will be appealing to both steampunk fanatics and casual readers.

The plot centers around the heist and attempted recuperation of a shipment of opium. The pirates who steal the shipment are a colorful lot led by Captain Bonny—who is one of those “ruffian gentlemen” rogues. I enjoyed how the conflict of this novel centered around fairly mundane things. The pirates steal the opium and then attempt to unload it for a profit as their being pursued by a single agent who is wholly unprepared and ill-equipped for the undertaking.

I enjoyed the blend of a semi-mundane plot on the backdrop of a fantastical world. I thought that functioned to add realism to the book. I also enjoyed the mythology of the pirates who lead rather romantic lives (as pirates so often do) despite the often violent realities of their situation.

This novel is great for those of you who are fans of pirate literature (of which there is too little) and who are curious about what steampunk is. “The Wake of the Dragon” is a fine and effective introduction to the genre, and I think it will please more demanding steampunk readers as well.  

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