Excuse me while I go kick myself for not picking this one a lot earlier. Unlike the previous entry in the series, this is a lot more streamlined in terms of plot, and I had a lot more fun reading it. (Not saying that I don’t love the first book, but this is a lot better with the writing.)Unlike Court of the Air, the plot of Kingdom Beyond the Waves is a lot more straightforward. There’s still a lot of jumping back and forth between the protagonists, but seeing as their interests lie with the same man, Abraham Quest, it’s a lot easier to follow and guess at what his ultimate plans are. It’s a little jarring to go from high adventure to mystery steampunk noir, but not to the point of keeping detailed charts like the first book. And I also like the fact that this is really more of an adventure tale in the tradition of H. Rider Haggard. Seeing as Amelia Harsh was one of my favorite characters from Court of the Air (all two and half pages she showed up on), I was really excited to find out that she’s the main character here. Like with Molly and Oliver, she’s another character type that comes straight out of the pulps—the obsessive professor dedicated to her father’s dying dream. She does play it a little straighter than the earlier characters, but I like that she’s willing to save Jared’s crew, even if it means giving up her dream. Cornelius Fortune is a bit more intriguing, as he’s putting on a double-life as a ne’er-do-well count and as Furnance-Breath Nick. I liked his scenes a little more, as he brought more intrigue to the plot.I do think the real stars are the supporting casts. Commodore Black was a fantastic character in book one, and to see him in full force with his crew was fabulous. I’m hoping that they get their own book to star in. I even liked the crew that Quest brings on, even though their purposes are a lot more muddled, there’s still a loyalty built between both crews. AND I LOVE IRONFLANKS. You know the crusty old guide who’s only in it for booze money and knows all the dangers of the jungle river and would probably make a heroic sacrifice? Now make him a steampunk robot. It really shouldn’t work, but it does, and I love him for it. (Oh, and his white whale is multi-eyed Tyrannosaurus rex queen that learned how to swear. Seriously, this series runs on so much Rule of Cool and it works and I love it.) Not sure how much I like Septimoth, although I do love his interactions with Damson Beeton. Oh, and Damson Beeton is PURE WIN FOREVER. (I seal-clapped when her first big revelation moment came.) And the villain has a more defined goal in this book, as opposed to overreaching political philosophy.As with the first book, what really works in this series is the world building. I liked the move to the jungles and exploring the cultures that arose there and even the exploration of an ancient society. The real world parallels are little more obvious in this book (to the point where I’m hoping that the end isn’t going to be “Oh, this was our world the whole time.” Because that would suck.) And going with the steampunk element, I like that it’s taking the idea out of gaslit cities and really exploring this world. We have submarines now; the steammen society in the jungle are equipped with multiple machetes. And I like that there’s less mysticism in this book—there’s still elements of magic and sorcery, but we’re also seeing how normal people cope in this world. There are some downsides to this, though. The lashlites are cool—flying lizards!—but I have no idea what their larger role in the plot had to do with anything. If Hunt had just left in Septimoth, it would be better, but I really didn’t get what adding the whole of the lashlites to the final battle does for anything. I’m not a fan of the full explanation of why Amelia is so obsessed with Camlantis, it feels like too much speculation on the antagonist’s part. And I was really disappointed with the Daggish, mostly because they were set up as a terrifying threat—hive-mind race of trees that enslave unsuspecting travelers and mind-wiping them—and we only get to see the once and they don’t even do anything. However, I did have a lot of fun reading this. I’d actually recommend starting with Kingdom Beyond the Waves rather than Court of the Air, as it’s much more streamlined plot-wise and while there’s a few elements from the former book that are carried over, they’re explained without dragging the plot down. It’s a really fun book, with some really interesting ideas.