It was about a year ago that I first began to research the term ‘steampunk.’ If you’re new to it yourself, check out this definition. Ever since those early days, I’ve been hooked on this genre. And one of my best author discoveries this year has been Meljean Brook, an established urban fantasy/romance author now entering the world of steampunk with The Iron Seas series, the first novel-sized installment of which is called The Iron Duke.
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power — and fear — of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.
Even though Mina can’t afford his interest, the investigation prevents her from avoiding him…and the Iron Duke’s ruthless pursuit makes him difficult to resist.
But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans — and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
Now, you might have caught the fact that I mentioned that The Iron Duke is the first NOVEL in the series. I originally fell in love with Brook’s novella “Here There Be Dragons” in the anthology Burning Up. While the two stories are tied together by a shared world and general cast of characters, it is not necessary to read one to appreciate the other. But I think once you’ve read one, you’ll be craving the next installment. At least, I was. Still am, truth be told.
It’s hard to categorize this steampunk story (or any steampunk story, probably). Is it romance? Action-adventure? Mystery? Hard-core sci-fi/fantasy? I want an option that reads ‘All of the above.’ Mina’s investigation takes her too close to comfort to the Iron Duke, and she’ll need his help to solve the crime. But what will happen along the way? And most importantly, will they come out of it with their reputations and lives intact?
One of the things I love about steampunk as a genre is that authors often create a world that evokes the morals and sensibilities of the Victorian era – with a twist. So in the world of the Iron Seas, one’s reputation is everything, as it seemed to be in ‘our’ Victorian time period – but for different reasons. Wealth and gender are important, yes, but race and perceived ethnicity are two other concerns that are explored in depth and to interesting effect.
Not only are the social dynamics fascinating, but the ‘science’ of this steampunk setting is first-rate as well. The technical explanations were actually a bit vague, but I found myself curious about the exact epidemiology and activation of the ‘virus’ of nanos. I often find myself scratching my head a bit with the science portions of science fiction, but in this case, I can only look forward to more explanation as the mystery is further unveiled in the next couple of installments.
Seriously, I was that pleased with this book. I love the intelligence and profundity of it (in parts), and I loved the romance part of it and the humorous dialogue, too.The different types of desperation felt by each character create drama and connection, and the rest is pure, satisfying entertainment. Of course, it’s adult-level reading. Not for you young ones. But if you’ve been teetering on the edge of steampunk and wondering if you could like it, let me recommend Brook’sThe Iron Duke. Excellent reading!
Recommended for: fans of historical romance, sci-fi and fantasy, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, and those curious about this thing called ‘steampunk.’
I won this book in a giveaway on Meljean Brook’s blog. This counts for the Iron Seas Reading Challenge hosted by vvb32reads.