Grade – A
Hotness Level – Blaze
Kink Level – no kink
Genre – Steampunk
Series: Iron Seas #1
Reviewed by Anne
I’ll preface this review by saying this book is an all time favorite of mine. I recently re-read it and I liked it even more, so there might be a bit of fangirl gushing going on today.
The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook is steampunk. It’s an alternate history where some things are the same, but others went along a different path. So in The Iron Duke, we have a historical England that has recently escaped enslavement by The Horde. The Horde controlled the people by infecting their blood with “bugs”. They also used technology to change the people in ways to match their slave occupation. So a miner might have a pick axe for an arm and so on. The Horde looks different than your average English person. (I picutre the Horde as Asian.) The Horde was driven out of England due to actions by Rhys Traehearn, aka the Iron Duke. He’s a national hero. On the other hand, Mina, who is the product of her loving English mother and a member of the Horde who raped her, is pretty much despised on sight by everyone due to her Horde looks. Despite that, she’s an inspector with the police force, and the book starts when she’s called to investigate a death on Traehearn’s property.Traehearn nearly immediately thinks Mina is someone he would like to have. Mina also feels an attraction to Traehearn, but for reasons of her own would never act on this attraction. Traehearn is determined and the investigation keeps them together. Unfortunately and fortunately, the investigation quickly deepens and gets more complicated. This leads to lots of adventure and more time for them to spend together.
There is so much good about this book. Even the things that bothered me initially turned out to be so well handled, that in the end I didn’t have a complaint. One example is Thraehearn’s alpha-ness. When he first meets Mina he is enthralled by her. She is interesting. He wants to have her. He gives no thought to her feelings. He’s quite confident that she will be amenable to anything he wants. Her resistance just makes her more attractive to him. He’s rich enough that he can pull strings to get whatever he wants, and he doesn’t hesitate to force Mina into a situation where she has to go along with him. He’s really an arrogant ass. So the author has a big job in turning him into a sympathetic character. But she does it and she does it well. Amazingly, at the end of the book, Traehearn is every bit as much of a take charge alpha man as he was at the beginning. He has a greater understanding and love for Mina, though, and that comes through loud and clear. He’s not afraid to make sacrifices to ensure her happiness, even if he’s awfully alpha about how he does it.
Another thing I really appreciated was that Meljean Brook builds an interesting world, and she does it without boring info dumps. The book has great secondary characters, too. It’s got ships on the sea and air ships that float under huge balloons! It’s got zombies and mechanical flesh. It’s got the best of sci fi/fantasy and romance together. I highly recommend this entire series!
One final note. There is a prequel to this story. It’s a short story called Here There Be Monsters. (It’s in the anthology Burning Up.) It’s one of my all time favorite short stories and is only loosely related to the Iron Duke. However, reading it first probably did help me understand the world building.