In Dark Service by Stephen Hunt (The Far-Called Sequence #1)

Jacob Carnehan has settled down. He's living a comfortable, quiet life, obeying the law and minding his own business while raising his son Carter... on those occasions when he isn't having to bail him out of one scrape or another. His days of adventure are - thankfully - long behind him.

Carter Carnehan is going out of his mind with boredom. He's bored by his humdrum life, frustrated that his father won't live a little, and longs for the bright lights and excitement of anywhere-but-here. He's longing for an opportunity to escape, and test himself against whatever the world has to offer.

Carter is going to get his opportunity. He's caught up in a village fight, kidnapped by slavers and, before he knows it, is swept to another land. A lowly slave, surrounded by technology he doesn't understand, his wish has come true: it's him vs. the world. He can try to escape, he can try to lead his fellow slaves, or he can accept the inevitable and try to make the most of the short, brutal existence remaining to him... unless Jacob gets to him first and, no matter the odds, he intends to. No one kidnaps his son and gets away with it - and if it come to it, he'll force Kings to help him on his way, he'll fight, steal, blackmail and betray his friends in the name of bringing Carter home.

Wars will be started. Empires will fall. And the Carnehan family will be reunited, one way or another...

Stephen Hunt has produced a well plotted and paced adventure that captures the imagination and entertains throughout. Despite its length, In Dark Service never sags or slows down. Told from many different perspectives, it avoids large info dumps and ciphers. There is a real immediacy and heightened sense of drama that sweeps the reader up.

Once you have bought into the world of technology mixed with the ancient and mystical, this is a real thrill ride. From the (seeming) peace and tranquillity of Northaven, we, like the characters, are whisked away to faraway lands and a very different existence entirely.

Issues of redemption, love, betrayal and coming of age are all addressed. Add steampunk, science into the mix and you have a powerhouse of a novel.

The mines where Carter and his friends find themselves and the working conditions are vividly described, as well as their personal suffering, which has real emotional impact. I was fully invested in the welfare of the characters involved. Just to keep the reader on their toes, Hunt has packed his novel with surprises and misdirection: not everyone is as they first appear. More importantly, everyone is changed by their experiences; they have all gone on their own personal journeys to discover who they really are.

Hunt has a hit on his hands with this, and I am really looking forward to the next in the series.

In Dark Service by Stephen Hunt
Published 2014 by Gollancz

9/10 A powerhouse of a novel.

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