Tuesday, October 25, 2011
New Review: Meljean Brook’s THE IRON DUKE – Swashbuckling Steampunk Romance, A Mystery Wrapped in a Love Affair in a New World, OH YES!
If you haven't read Steampunk (historical science fiction), particularly the romance novels within the genre, let me warn you...they can be quite different. This first installment in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series brings us a whole new complicated world where history is rewritten. Think of it as Victorian romance on Planet X or aliens and the Victorian world. Technology is a key element, technology developed in the mind of the author that adds a whole new dimension to the story.
In this case, the Mongol Horde took over the world 200 + years ago and changed it forever, using nanotechnology "bugs" to control people and their emotions, even producing sexual "Frenzies" that enabled them to rape any woman when it suited their debauchery, even women in the nobility. Such a woman is our heroine's mother and that is why Lady Wilhelmina Wentworth ("Mina") will never be able to escape the mark of the Horde. Mina, grown up and now a Detective Inspector, and a very smart one indeed, is half Horde and discriminated against as a result. In pursuing the mystery of a body dropped onto the estate of the Iron Duke Rhys Trahaearn, she comes face to face with this former pirate captain who won back England from the Horde and became the nation's hero. Rhys's attraction for Mina is immediate and possessive. He intends to have the Inspector. But as they work together to solve the mystery of the dead man, they encounter a treacherous organization called the Black Guard.
The world that Brook has created includes airships, zombies, nanotechnology, interesting secondary characters, both outrageous and charming, and a complicated heroine and hero. Both the hero and heroine are very strong people with their own stubborn views of the world they live in. Each must change to find love. I do agree that Rhys was, at times, confusing. At the beginning he is the strong, silent but demanding type; then he sort of mutates into this swearing caring guy. The change was a bit jarring. But even as a caring guy he is oblivious to the status a marriage to him would give Mina. He wants to help her but he doesn't think of that? Then, too, their relationship was all about the physical (explicitly so), which made it difficult to see any real love emerging until the end. I think that could have been done better.
It's an absorbing story, one that will keep your brain alert. She delivers a great ending to this unique romance. I recommend it, but only if you are up for an adventure.
Brook does an excellent job of doling out the details of the world she has created and the technology that goes with it. With all the new terminology, I longed for a glossary. Alas, there was none. So, contacted Meljean and asked for one. Here is what she sent me:
A SHORT IRON SEAS GLOSSARY:
The Horde: The current government/rule for most of Asia, Europe, and Africa. It began as the Mongol Horde taking over Europe and Africa, but has evolved since then.
Nanoagents or "bugs": The tiny machines that live in the people's blood and can control them through radio signals. It also gives them greater strength, greater healing ability -- or, if a different kind of 'bug', create a zombie infection.
Buggers: The English people who are infected by the bugs and lived under the Horde occupation in England.
Bounders: When the Horde took over Europe hundreds of years before, some British people fled to the New World with the rest of Europe. Now that the Horde has been thrown out of England, many of those Brits are returning to England. The buggers call these returning Brits "bounders."
The Libere: Africans who fled to the New World, and have since rebelled against the French who were using them as indentured servants.
To this list, I was tempted to add a few more, such as the Black Guard, but Meljean thought it best for you to pick those up in the book as you read along. Some day there will no doubt be a guide with all the new terms defined!
For all of you who are fans of this one, the second in the series, HEART OF STEEL, is due out November 1. The next book is foreshadowed in this one with the introduction of the wonderful characters Yasmeen (Lady Corsair) and Archimedes Fox.