Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Title: The Iron Duke
Author: Meljean Brook
Series: The Iron Seas 1
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Release Date: 05 October 2010

When pirate captain Rhys Trahaearn freed England from Horde control he became a national hero, and earned the title of Duke of Anglesy. Since then he's built a massive merchant empire on the authority of his name, gaining him many enemies along the way as well as a reputation that he takes what he wants.

Nine years have passed since the tower was destroyed, freeing Mina and everyone infected with nanoagents from having their emotions and bodies controlled. But they're still reeling from almost two-hundred years of being dominated and the backlash is strong - especially for Mina who has Horde blood running through her veins. Even coming from a titled family, though impoverished, Mina struggles to eke out a living as a Detective Inspector for the Metropolitan Police. And she's damn good at what she does.

Which is why when a dead body is literally dropped on Rhys' doorstep, Mina is sent to the scene. And Rhys quickly decides to make her his next possession. But Mina can't afford his interest and what it will mean for her family and her career. Unfortunately the investigation is firmly tied to the Iron Duke and she can't avoid him or his unwavering attention.

The discovery of the victim's identity leads Rhys and Mina to discover that Rhys' ship was stolen and Mina's brother is aboard it. Working closely together they soon uncover a conspiracy that sends them racing across zombie-infested lands, monster-filled waters and against a group that will stop at nothing to kill every living bugger in England.

If that weren't enough, Mina soon realizes though that the danger isn't only where expected when she's tempted to give up everything for Rhys.

I started reading with very high expectations. After reading the short, "Here There Be Monsters" in the Burning Up anthology, I could not wait to start. And I was not disappointed. From page one I was absolutely riveted with The Iron Duke. It quickly pulled me into the devastatingly, wonderfully-crafted world, and was very reluctant to let go - even for work. I'm quite sure that my review here can't begin to do this book justice, but I'll do the best I can.

To give an idea of the world that this takes place in - it's an alternate Victorian world where nearly everyone in England (and most places but the Americas) was infected with nanoagents. These microscopic little bugs were delivered to them through sugar from the Horde, and increased their bodily strength, but also enabled the Horde to control every thing the people did. The people had no control over their emotions, or their bodies. They could be frozen in place, or whipped into a Frenzy - their sexual needs at a fever pitch to ensure procreation. What's worse was that the people were 'awake' and knew what they were doing...just unable to stop it. Some people had mechanical tools grafted onto their persons to better enable them to do the jobs set for them, others were infected with bad bugs, making them zombies, and a good line of defense for the Horde. It's a gritty, dangerous place filled with advanced technology, and people once again trying to make their own way.

Mina is an absolutely fantastic character. Someone that I'd want to know and be friends with. She's strong, loyal, extremely intelligent and possesses a huge heart. After years of dealing with the racism and derision cast at her for the circumstances of her birth she's developed a hard skin, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't feel the pain of each blow delivered. And while she doesn't dwell on it, she does know what the consequences are of getting involved with pretty much anyone, but most especially someone with the standing of the Iron Duke.

One of the things I really loved seeing was her working. Watching her use her agile brain to figure things out, and actually detect, was so much fun. The integrity that she has at the same time never wavers. I really appreciated the depth that was given to Mina and her job - which she clearly has a lot of love and respect for. Another thing that added depth is the absolute love and devotion between Mina and her family. They all quickly endeared themselves to me with the absolute sincerity of their actions.

Rhys is now one of my favorite heroes. When I first read the blurb for this book I was expecting...almost a knight-in-shining-armor hero. But I was pleasantly surprised and that's not what I got. He's courageous and determined of course, and he has a hurtful past that he's not only overcome, but almost completely conquered. The one thing I could have wished for is a bit more time inside his head, to know him even better. This is not a complaint, merely something I would have really enjoyed.

The chemistry between Rhys and Mina is absolutely palpable. From the first moment they meet neither can deny the desire between them. No matter how unwanted, or how much of a problem it's going to create. Watching Rhys attempts to gain Mina as his is one of the best things I've read - he makes mistakes, he curses himself for not knowing what to do in regards to her, and he continues to try, not only for himself, but for Mina. As they got to know one another and the feelings between them continued to grow, so did the respect. I thought it was really well done that not only was the desire there, but I could clearly see why these two fell in love with each other.

The relationship between Rhys and Mina clearly is the spine of the story, but the investigation into the conspiracy drives it. It pulls you along, not letting go, and continues to build the suspense. Seeing the world, and a good portion of it, in such detail was truly a treat. The world that The Iron Duke is set in is so richly crafted that it literally felt real to me. Everything, from the large kraken to the small nanoagents were so exquisitely described that it's like a engaging painting - every time I look at it a new detail reveals itself, giving more depth, meaning, and feeling. Additionally, Rhys and Mina are supported by a wonderfully deep secondary characters that I can't wait to see more of, including Scarsdale and the Blacksmith, but most especially Lady Corsair who I'm already more than half in love with.

To put it lightly, The Iron Duke not only lived up to my expectations, but absolutely blew them out of the water. It's a heart-filled, thrilling journey through a bold new world that Ms. Brook has created. I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, and until then I will be re-reading The Iron Duke many times...starting right now.

Grade: A

Book Link | Amazon | Kindle | nook | kobo | Borders eBook | Sony | Book Depository | Berkley Trade


Straylights said...

I can't wait to read this book. I keep hearing really good reviews about it. \o/

Angela said...

I really hope you enjoy it and can't wait to hear what you think! It's such a fantastic book that I can't stop thinking about it days after I finished, and a re-read is all but impossible. So here I am. Re-reading. ;)

Nicole Sheldon said...

I completely agree! Though not as eloquent, I reviewed it with high, high marks as well. 8 out of 5 stars, are you in shock my old friend? I think the thing I am most awed with is the world and the incredibly perfected detail, down to the smallest thing. Just amazing.

Angela said...

I'm not surprised actually - this is, so far, my top pick of the year. It's a fantastic book with tons of potential for the future books.

And I agree - the world? AMAZING!

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