4 of 5 stars.
A dirigible steampunk tale with a mystery at its core verges toward a supernatural detective story as it ramps up. The genre mash-up works quite well here.
Captain Moon and his dirigible, Hyssop, with its tiny three-man crew isn’t looking for trouble, he actively tries to avoid trouble–especially in the form of close governmental inspection. However, he is sailing to the port town of Poorfortune and needs the money, so he takes on a governmental scientist as a fare. He also needs to pretend, in accordance to statutes, that he has a trained weatherfinder on board. He’s able to secure a weatherfinder jacket from a woman on the docks looking for her weatherfinder brother who disappeared over a year earlier, on a ship, The Ravens that likewise disappeared. The same woman is found stowed away on Hyssop shortly after it leaves port. Not wanting to cause a scene in front of an angsty, threatening scientist, Moon claims that the woman is “Ivana”, his weatherfinder.
Nothing is as it seems on the ship. The scientist is researching mythic supernatural weatherfinder abilities. Hyssop has new thick coats of paint that cannot hide its age and underlying raven-motif. “Ivana” can read people at a mere touch, and starts to understand the weather . . .
“Skull and Hyssop” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in LCRW, December 2014.
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