the Little Red Reviewer

The Guns Above, by Robyn Bennis

Posted on: October 21, 2018

The Guns Above, by Robyn Bennis

published  in 2017

where i got it: borrowed from a friend





Action packed, cinematic, and full of snarky dialog that is hella fun, this steampunk flintlock fantasy book would make an excellent movie!


The book starts out with a rather straight forward plot: Captain Josette Dupre is the first female airship captain. A foppish spy, Bernat,  is put aboard her ship to report back and prove she (and thus all women in the military) is incompetent. She turns out to be ridiculously competent, and the spy realized he doesn’t want to be  a dick. When the enemy attacks Dupre’s hometown, epic air battles commence! The story might sound straight forward, but this book has plenty of surprises in store.


I appreciated that the book starts when the story starts.  There is no prologue, no infodumping right out of the gate, the reader is just thrown into an action scene.  This is the author asking you to trust her that she will explain everything later, and in the meantime, why don’t you just enjoy the ride and the fantastic dialog?   Fear not, because Bennis does explain everything in time. Things like that this country is obsessed with warfare, that this is a society where women are usually at home raising families but that has changed since the government is so desperate for anyone who can join up and fight, and that the farmers in the border villages haven’t moved their farms but have changed what country they live in countless times.


As Captain Dupre is given her own command and lauded as the first female airship captain, others take this as an opportunity to smear her.   She, and (most of) her crew know their business – Bennis has either spent ton of time onboard sailing ships, or she did a ton of research – they know about shifting weight, how to handle tight quarters, what to do (and never do!) with weapons on board, how to test the airship’s limits, and harmless ways to haze the younger crewmembers.   The attention to detail was absolutely fantastic.


Bernat is a spoiled wealthy fop, and when his uncle gets sick of supporting his drinking and womanizing ways, he kills two birds with one stone – he assigns Bernat to Dupre’s ship as an “observer”, and by observer, I mean spy.  Maybe the ship will go down in battle, and Bernat’s uncle can be rid of two annoyances. And those airships sure are flammable, don’t you know?

The dialog in The Guns Above was easily my favorite part. Laugh out loud funny at times, heartfelt at others, and sarcastic and snarky as the opportunities presented themselves. Bennis must have had so much fun writing the dialog!


I know Dupre is the  main character, and it is her actions that push the plot forward, but I found myself enjoying Bernat’s journey more than hers.   She’s spent most of her adult life aboard airships, none of this is new to her. She’s just doing her job (more on that in a bit, because it is a shitty job). Bernat on the other hand, this is all new to him. As someone who has never been on a military airship ship, he is suddenly the most worthless person in the room.  He’s used to buying, bribing, or seducing his way into or out of any situation, and none of those skills will help him here. So it was neat to watch him decide to be a decent person, and realize that being a dick just didn’t suit him very well.


So let’s talk about Dupre’s job for a few minutes, because it’s sort of a shitty one.  As the captain of the ship, she makes all the decisions. Sounds awesome, right? As the captain of the ship, she takes responsibility for all the decisions, even the ones where she took the least crappy option from a list of all crappy options.  Warfare is usually a list of terrible options, and a good captain will take the option that kills the fewest people, and then take the blame for people having died.


And people die under her watch. And she’s gets to be the person who tells everyone else on the ship to get that body out of the way, and get back to work.  See what I mean about it being a shitty gig? Like Bernat, I’d gotten so caught up in the fun snark that I’d forgotten there was a war on, and that in wars people have to make terrible decisions.  Turns out I’m just as sheltered as Bernat, I guess.


I’ve not read a ton of airship stories, or flintlock fantasy, so I don’t really know what a book like this is “supposed” to be.  But I enjoyed myself, and that’s what’s important. There is a sequel out, By Fire Above.  While it was a fun read, I don’t know that I enjoyed The Guns Above quite enough to continue in the series (nothing wrong with the book, this is 100% user error: flintlock military fantasy isn’t really my thing), but I’m happy to see that the author is writing more in this world.



2 Responses to "The Guns Above, by Robyn Bennis"

This was a fun read! I still need to read the next in series

Liked by 1 person

This sounds right up my street! 🙂

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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