Lean in. Fire at Will.
There is not a time in Josette Dupre’s life when things came easy. From her unconventional, infuriating and generally unsupportive mother to crewmembers on her ship whose sole purpose is to catch her in a mistake. That’s right. Her ship. After a dramatic and unexpectedly successful mission where Josette seizes command of an airship after the captain dies, the press gets wind of her heroism. And she becomes the first female captain in the Garnian Air Signal Corps. It’s unprecedented and most of the military leadership opposes it, even to Josette’s face.
Things don’t get rosier from there. To succeed as a woman in a man’s world, Josette has to be twice as good with less resources to get even a fraction of the credit. But Captain Dupre rises to the occasion. Surly and sarcastic with a bone dry sense of humor, she comes off as a bit of a hard ass. She’s competent as hell, but insecure at times. Unfortunately, she can’t show the natural insecurities of a young captain because there are men like foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat who are betting on her to fail.
She’s the type of woman to break out of the hospital because she’s feeling socially awkward. To press herself to be better and better even though she knows it will never be good enough for the anti-female lords of the world she’s chosen. That’s Josette to a T. Always pushing forward because what’s come before isn’t better than today. It’s compelling and magnetic despite her well-documented resting bitch face.
…it inspired something vaguely like a smile in Dupre. Which is not to say that her mouth smiled, but her lips did tighten at the corners, and her habitual scowl diminished incrementally.
Bernat found it unsettling.
Even Lord Bernat, who comes onboard to spy on Josette and keep records of any misstep, can’t help but admire her calm intensity in the throes of battle. And boy, are there a lot of battles in the Signal Airship series.
When her experimental deathtrap of an airship, the Mistral, is called upon to change the tide of the war, Josette learns the new ship backwards and forwards, adjusts its very designs, and blackmails and cajoles her way into supplying her crew. Even then, there’s the constant risk of catching fire, being blown into enemy territory, or crashing on takeoff because of weight imbalance. If you can’t handle the constant possibility you’ll explode, you better stay out of the airship.
But if there’s one thing The Guns Above and By Fire Above show about Josette, its that she’s not perfect. She can’t be the best at everything, even if that’s what the world demands of a powerful woman. She’s hard to please and even harder to get along with. She feels that nagging need to be liked as well as respected, but ends up being feared. In the end though, it’s the flaws and failures that make her so relatable.
“It was never my plan to make them fear me.”
“But you have a knack for it, and that can be even better than a plan.”
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