Nothing Left to Wish For is a swashbuckling tale in an unforgiving desert world. The story starts with sky pirate Esmeralda, Esme for short, leading a raid of a local potentate’s ship seeking a rumored treasure of immeasurable value. Protagonist as pirate isn’t that unusual, particularly nowadays, but the real reversal comes when she discovers the nature of the cargo, an effete young man who declares himself Sasha, the governor’s son and worth a prince’s ransom. Esme and Sasha face a range of dangers (which notably includes each other) as they both seek their freedom in a harsh world.
The world Andrew Schneider crafts is fantastical, but with a consistency that will appeal to fans of steampunk, space opera, and genres in between. The runes that power the flying ships are also used in weapons and enable the grafted arm Esme uses to captain ships and flying carpets and to give her an edge over her opposition. However, this shortcut often comes with a cost, as attested to by the lower level denizens of the flying cities, suffering from rune rot and ignored by the masses barely getting by in their own right.
How does nothing Left to Wish For stand out from the pack? The author is a friend, but even so I’d say there’s something more remarkable about it even in a genre where heroines and dying worlds are not uncommon. Esme isn’t coming of age; the dark story is suitable for young adults but stars a woman with some questionable choices, a broken engagement, and a few years already behind her. Such women may be common in comedies and romances, but are less frequently seen in adventures. As a side note, the book is also plays against nautical type in that it is not an ensemble piece but is instead focused on a small number of core characters.
Nothing Left to Wish For is by turns exciting combat, treacherous ruins and adversaries, and exhilarating piloting. Esmeralda, and her interactions with those that she works with and against - often simultaneously - are quite memorable. She occupies a space between the rare archetypes of female hotshot and anti-heroine. If that appeals, but you want more of a sample of the writing and the world, check out the Noir prequel story: Cool with plenty of water (http://andrewgschneider.wordpress.com/about/cool-with-plenty-of-water/).
(reviewed 90 days after purchase)