Robert Preston left the United States to fight for France. It was being called the War to End All Wars. He believed in the cause. But, he went to lose the rest of himself after his heart was broken. Instead he finds himself and his heart through the people he meets and the challenges he overcomes.
The Aeronaut by Bryan Young (our very own Swankmotron) is a memoir style telling of a World War I adventure of fighting, romance, and espionage. Woven into the story are elements of steampunk to draw interest to the events, providing additional levels to the intrigue and suspense. I picked up a copy of The Aeronaut from the author at the League of Utah Writers Spring into Books 2018 event for review purposes.
Robert Preston shares his story. He is The Aeronaut telling of his time as a member of the French Army. He joined their battle against the German forces because he knew it was the right thing to do and because he was heartbroken and believed he had nothing further to lose. What he didn’t count on was how much he had to gain.
As comrades in arms fighting for a common cause, Preston becomes friends with LeBeau, then, Renault, and eventually Sara. LeBeau and Renault are soldiers he meets on the lines of battle, while Sara is an English nurse Preston meets while recovering from wounds he sustained while becoming what many consider a hero.
The main part of The Aeronaut takes place after Preston and Sara meet. Their love grows but they are still a part of the war even though their feelings for each other give them some times of being apart from the war. But the war still rages, and Preston is still a soldier who is required to do his part.
Preston is recruited for a clandestine mission behind enemy lines. It is something he doesn’t want to do, but is physically the perfect man for the job. Being in a position of not being able to reject his assignment, Preston pushes forward.
The Aeronaut is a first person memoir. Robert Preston is telling you his story. Included are his perceptions and feelings. Some are presented to be a little raw. There are scenes sharing the violence man can do against man, but not with horrific descriptions. As a memoir, the foreshadowing is well structured and is brought together nicely at the end.
The adding of steampunk elements allows for easier relatability with modern day readers. Instead of seeing the battle from a soldier climbing up over the wire to charge into no man’s land, there is the view of the battle from Preston as he uses his jetpack to jump forward, perform his part in the assault, then jump back over the contested zone of lingering death.
Steampunk adds to the story without overpowering it. Bryan Young creates a personal story and stays with it throughout The Aeronaut. The steampunk elements weave into his tale, supporting the story. I have read other works where the fantastical element become the mainstay, overpowering the characters and the main story arc. Here there is enough description to explain how and why the elements are there to support the story.
The Aeronaut is a well-structured war story. The point-of view allows for the sharing of not only the scenes that are taking place, but some of the personal turmoil the lead character goes through. It is known that Robert Preston survives, because it is his story. From early on in the telling you know there is more to the story than just surviving, which gives interest to continue reading to the end.
The level of description is good for adults and young adult readers. Experienced readers may find some of the events more easily predicted. However, that doesn’t take away from the solid storytelling. The details shows the author has a strong understanding of the historical events portrayed
The Aeronaut by Bryan Young is published by Silence in the Library Publishing.
I give The Aeronaut 4 out 5.