War brews between the Kingdom of Jackals and Cassarabia. A young thief named Jack Keats is pressed into service on an experimental airship, the Iron Patridge after a botched bank job. A Cassarabian slave named Omar learns of his true parentage, only to have it stolen from him. As Jack and Omar learn what it means to be men, will war be averted or will the two world powers engage in a conflict that will destroy them both?
Jack Cloudie fleshes out two aspects of Stephen Hunt's Jackalian saga that have been repeatedly mentioned but never really explored: the airship navy and the womb mages of Cassarabia. It tells the story of Jack Keats gaining acceptance among the crew of the Iron Patridge and Omar becoming a guardsman and learning to not be a lazy ass all the time. The threads are united by a vizier's attempts to wrest the rulership of Cassaraba away from the Eternal Caliph.
Stephen Hunt's steampunk series continues to move forward, although it seems to get more wobbly as it goes. This was not my favorite of his books. Aside from a returning character, most of the cast didn't really engage me. In fact, I found some of them bland and some of them irritating. There wasn't a whole lot going on, either, not compared to his other books. There wasn't a whole lot of excitement to be had, a pity since I've been waiting forever for him to do an airship novel. Both plot threads were fairly standard coming of age tales. I guess the whole thing just felt a little tired. Not surprising since this is the fifth book in the series.
So why did I give it a 3 after I just shat all over it? Well, three reasons.
1 - Commodore Black is the man! I missed Old Blackie. He's easily my favorite character in the entire series.
2 - The womb mages of Cassarabia had been talked about for four books prior to this one. Hunt built them up quite a bit but they were even more horrifying than I imagined. The Cassarabian culture wound up being my favorite part of the book.
3 - While I thought it was a tad predictable, I loved that the Iron Partridge wound up being sentient.
So, Jack Cloudie isn't a bad book. It's just not the action-packed adventure I was hoping for from Stephen Hunt. It's a solid three.