I picked up this book several years ago in a library I wasn't a member of and forgot to look for it later. Here are a few details I recall:

  • It's third person, with at least two POV characters.
  • One of the POV characters is at one point engaged at a high-class brothel, although she escapes before she meets her first client.
  • There's a drug called leaff that is used to prolong life and maintain a youthful physical state.
  • The king of the realm is a figurehead that literally has no arms. The young prince does have arms, but his minders threaten to cut them off early when he misbehaves.
  • There's some sort of revolutionary group that amasses supporters by promising them better lives and then turns them into cyborgs.
  • It's steampunk, so the setting's overall feel is pre-modern.

Any guesses?

  • Do you have an idea of when it was published?
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 5:17
  • All I can remember is that it was out in paperback before 2014. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 5:23
  • Is the drug called "leaff" with two f's or is that a spelling mistake?
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 5:25
  • To my recollection, it's "leaff" with two f's, but it could be some other aberrant variation on "leaf." Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 5:28

1 Answer 1


The Court of the Air

This is a steampunk novel published in 2009, by Stephen Hunt. It fits most of the facts in the question.

There are at least two point-of-view characters, as mentioned in the question: the prince, and Molly, who was employed at a brothel.

The King literally has no arms:

Molly nodded. The King’s robes had been subtly tailored to accentuate the fact that both of his arms had been surgically removed, and in time the young prince would no doubt be dragged bawling to the bone-cutter’s table by his Special Guard jailers.

It had been ever thus, since Isambard Kirkhill strode across the land in a sea of blood and pistol smoke to assert parliament’s right of supremacy at the head of the new pattern army. No monarch shall ever raise his arms against his people again.

The prince is threatened with having his arms removed early:

Hoggstone rose up and drove a ham-sized fist into the prince’s stomach. The boy doubled up on the floor and the First Guardian kicked him in the head. ‘As it should be, Your Highness. Now shut up, or we’ll take your arms off early, cover them in gold plate and show them next to your father’s down in the People’s Hall.’

There is a drug called "leaaf":

Molly gnawed suspiciously at the square. It was almost tasteless, the consistency of wet clay. ‘What is it?’

‘Leaaf,’ said Justine.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.