Reading level: Adult
Size: 378 pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: October , 2010
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in Iron Seas series
Source: Won in the Iron Seas Challenge from vvb32 reads
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
This is the first book in The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook. I couldn’t find how many books are planned for this series. There is a short story from this series in Burning Up, which I enjoyed immensely. The second book in this series will be called Heart of Steel and is planned for a November 2011 release. According to Meljean Brook’s blog the books in this series will occur in the the same universe but will follow different sets of characters. This was an excellent book, with exceptional world-building.
Mina is half Horde and a Detective Inspector. When a dead body is dropped in front of the Iron Duke’s mansion she is called in to inspect. Mina is drawn into a plot that is bigger than anything she has ever been part of and ends up traveling with the Iron Duke on a journey to solve this mystery. The Iron Duke is in inexplicably drawn to Mina and will stop at nothing to possess her. Mina is torn, she has intimacy issues because of the involuntary Frenzies that the Hoard used to send all bugged people into, and she has worked hard to gain respect in society despite her Horde blood and doesn’t want to destroy that by becoming involved with the Iron Duke.
This is an absolutely crazy and imaginative world. You have the Horde, an almost alien-like group of oppressors who infected portions of the population with nanobugs in order to control them via radio waves. As result of these nanobugs certain members of the population (called buggers) have exceptional strength, healing powers, and other disturbing abilities. As a resulting of bug infection gone wrong you have flesh eating zombies that can infect others with mutant bug strands. You also have a world where the industrial revolution is on crack. There are airships, crazy clockwork inventions of every type, and amazing mechanical enhancements and attachments to human bodies. The buggers abilities to graft anything metal onto their bodies has resulted in some interesting things. I am absolutely in love with this world…it is incredibly complicated and just amazingly engaging. It is also full of surprises; you never know what you will run into next.
The politics of this book are also very intricate. You have many layers of society; the buggers (English population that stayed through the Horde invasion), the English population that fled and is now returning since Horde rule has been overthrown, people with Horde blood, pirates, the Black Guard, etc. etc. Brook does an excellent job of keeping track of these complexities and allowing the reader to easily follow them. You do have to pay attention though and you do have to use your brain a bit.
Mina is a wonderful character; she is complicated, has a sense of humor, and wonderfully determined. She has such drive and can really kick butt when she wants too. There is a wonderful cast of characters that support her; all of them as complicated and interesting as she is. I was less enamored with the main hero of the book, the Iron Duke Rhys, although I must admit him and Mina had excellent chemistry together. The steamy scenes between Mina and Rhys are, for the most part, deliciously creative and have wonderful vibe to them.
This leads to the only thing I really didn’t like about the book and that was Rhys, the Iron Duke. The second he sees Mina he must possess her and control her; he does things to her against her will that gave me kind of a yucky feeling. It was odd because overall he was an interesting and sensitive character; it was just that at points he got carried away and began to channel this alpha male thing. Now I am more an urban fantasy fan than a romance fan so this may be why this was a turn-off for me. In the end I loved the relationship that he and Mina developed. It was just the beginning to middle parts where he was all like “I will possess you even if you don’t want me too” that bothered me. If Rhys has toned it down a bit in the beginning and actually had some reason for becoming infatuated with Mina I could have loved their relationship, if he had grown to love her over time (and respected her as a person) this book would have been a five starer for me.
Overall this is a great book. The world building, action scenes, and characters are amazing. This would have been 5 stars if not for the Iron Duke’s overbearing nature and the crazy “love at first sight” thing that happened in the beginning of the book. Having a characters’ relationship start this way always drives me crazy. I definitely recommend this if you are a steampunk fan or a fan of intricate fantasy. Just beware that there is a lot of romance in this and it channels that whole overly alpha male vibe. I think this would have been a perfect book if it had turned down the inexplicable romance factors a bit. I am still looking forward to reading Heart of Steel because I am absolutely in love with this world that Brook has created.