For my 100th online review as the Steampunk Desperado, I consider Philip Ligon’s young-adult steampunk novel “The King’s Regret,” published in 2019. It’s a “fantasy world” type steampunk which follows a pair of teenage siblings from the aristocratic Falconbone family. Once leaders of the mining city of Airendale, their family was betrayed by their country’s power-mad king, making them outlaws. Since then, they and their loyal followers have hidden in the hollowed-out insides of a mountain, once the home of sky pirates.
Young Jason Falconbone tries to make the best of the situation. His fondest activity is working on The King’s Regret, the oldest airship in the family’s fleet. Though the ship is currently out of service, he hopes to restore her and make her his own someday. In the meantime, his explorations get him into trouble. His older sister Leah tries her best to keep him safe.
After a near-fatal incident with an experimental steam-powered ornithopter, Jason and Leah find themselves grounded and facing weeks of kitchen duty. Then everything begins to go wrong all at once. There’s a huge leak in the colony’s water supply, and there are rumors that the King has learned their whereabouts and is planning an attack. This is when Jason, sneaking out to investigate possible sabotage, meets a mysterious old man who’s been living in the tunnels undetected. Is he the Falconbones’ salvation or their worst enemy?
Though not particularly original, the story is fairly fast-paced and its main characters, the Falconbone siblings, are endearing. They’re good kids but very independent-minded. While their father is away on an important mission, they defy their over-protective uncle and nanny, though they do get punished for their disobedience. Most significantly, they don’t always get their way. This makes it a good coming-of-age story and with some interesting conflict. Like several other recently-published steampunk novels, it’s essentially a war story, so there are violent scenes, but it never gets graphic. As seems to be the rule for YA’s these days, The King’s Regret is part of a series, the first in the planned Falconbone Chronicles.
For the most part, I enjoyed this book despite some minor irritations. First of all, “Falconbone” is a very silly-sounding name. I had difficulty taking it seriously. Secondly, though Jason is the primary point-of-view character, it’s Leah who graces the front cover. She’s a bit young to be there for her sex appeal, so I expect it’s a marketing gambit to attract female readers. And there’s a major plot element involving “floating mountains” which slide around at noticeable speeds. I’d like to have an idea of how this works. Is there an ocean of magma below them?
Despite these minor issues, I liked The King’s Regret. The book is a good choice for younger YA audiences and a great way to get the steampunk movement back in gear, so to speak. I rate it 4 out of 5 gears.