Review: Airships of Camelot
The title AIRSHIPS OF CAMELOT pretty much gives away what this book is: a King Arthur and steampunk mashup. Usually I’d hesitate reading something like this, but since it was written by Robison Wells of VARIANT fame I was actually excited.
Turns out it’s a really fun read.
We meet teenage Arthur on the airship Forest Wild with Captain Hector and crew: Kay, Elaine, Teague, Short Arm, Merlin, etc. Obviously a book like this means name dropping and your brain will try to connect with the old story. In some ways Wells reflects the original legends, but for the most part he takes what he understands about the original people’s personalities and fits them into a setting and story that best utilizes who they are and what they would do. Arthur is the guy who wants to do the right thing. Merlin is the tutor/councilor. Morgan is the manipulator. Wells does a pretty good job balancing what we already know about these people but also creating their own characters in AIRSHIPS–he doesn’t rely exclusively on the old stories.
Arthur is the heir of Camelot (Mesa Verde in Colorado and surrounds) and the region they have claimed for plunder, from California to Idaho to New Mexico. You see, years ago after World War I and the Spanish Influenza that followed, what followed was a sort of apocalypse where survivors of the pandemic gathered. The United States Navy kept a sort of order during this time and the survivors took to the skies to avoid infection. Now it’s years later and Arthur’s ship is…well, it’s basically pirating the settlements on the ground. They don’t see it that way of course. The groundies are savages, infected with the influenza, they’re slavers–definitely not real people like he’d consider those who live in Camelot. But after an experience on a raid, Merlin sparks questions in Arthur’s mind and he begins to wonder whether they’re wrong. Sure this would seem obvious to us, and may be considered a bit of a plot hole, but it’s YA so I didn’t let that catch me up–your kids for sure won’t care. Sometimes things aren’t explained, such as the technology, but there isn’t a lot of time for it other than “Merlin made it.” This story is about Arthur’s experiences and since his PoV isn’t well-versed in the nitty gritty of how things work we don’t get those details.
We learn about the airships, the technology (not as much as I would have liked), and the lay of the land, including all the other admirals with their own hunting grounds, including the likes of Lancelot and Pellinore. Texas controls the helium, and demands more and more plunder in exchange. Things are bad and bound to get worse unless the admirals work together to get something done; unfortunately they have their own ideas about how things should be done.
Wells knows how to move a story forward, so the pace is great from page one, clear up until the end. He doesn’t dump information on us, but weaves it in as we go along, so we never feel lost or confused. The good guys are good and worth cheering for; the bad guys have their understandable motives, but are definitely troublemakers. We get to see a lot of the characters in the old stories, but they don’t crowd out Arthur’s story, instead adding dimension to the narrative as a whole while still being true to the old stories. One of my favorite things about Wells’ writing are the surprising bits of laugh-out-loud humor and I was pleased to find those here, too.
AIRSHIPS would be a great addition to your kids’ library, and you might even enjoy reading it together.
Recommended Age: 10+
Language: A handful of minor ones
Violence: Some blood, shooting, and death, but nothing gory
Sex: Teenage crushes and some kissing
For now it’s only available on Kindle: