This novel is set in the world of "Tracks" where the romance of steam never died, and hobos still ply the living rails. As with "Tracks", this is not your regular fantasy. I trade the usual stock of wizards and elves for railroads and hobos. And no, you don't have to be a rail fan to understand this or the other books in the series, as I sprinkle my background lightly like a fine spice. "Knight" is a stand-alone novel. You won't have to read "Tracks" or "Storm Child" to enjoy the story, but if you did, you will find a few familiar characters and settings as this story takes place in the same Hobohemia universe sixty years after "Storm Child".
"Knight" visits several locals that no longer exist save for railroad lore, from the Moonville Tunnel and Baldwin Locomotive Works in Ohio to the American Locomotive Company in New York.
If trains connect different yet similar worlds, there must be a hub. This over-arching landscape is Hobohemia, a network of rails, hobo jungles, and baronies supporting the mighty engines hauling freight and people across mid-America. Here, both the engines and even the rails themselves are alive, maintained by both artisans and high-spirited steam children.
These are the spirits of little girls who can be seen playing in the steam around the great engines. These children grow up, but usually retain their more childish forms and manners despite their wisdom of years spent on the rails. True spirits who can change their appearance at will, the steam children are not invulnerable creatures, and are as subject to their emotions and relationships as they are to those who might prey on their frailties.
Hobos make up much of Hobohemia's population, and for the most part travel the rails spreading their own brand of free spirit and culture. They live outside of "anchor cities" such as Chicago and Cleveland, which serve as conduits between Hobohemia and the regular worlds. To most folks they appear as shabby vagabonds, however those in Hobohemia adopt the true nature of open-hearted gentry.
Hobos were sometimes referred to as Knights of the Open Road, so in Hobohemia we actually have the Order of the Open Road charged with safeguarding the hobo camps and Hobohemia in general. Most of these men are veterans from the other side of the tracks. To the uneducated eye the knights appear as hobos carrying staves and wearing bowler hats. However, in keeping with the duality of what it means to be a hobo, they can be glimpsed as true armored knights.
These monstrosities are the physical manifestation of people who have succumbed to their base nature. Shorn of self-esteem and hope, yegg are the swirling black antithesis of steam children.