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Book CoverGwen’s review of The Iron Duke (A Novel of the Iron Seas) by Meljean Brook
Steampunk romance released by Berkley Trade 5 Oct 10

Well, hello there.  Miss me?  That’s correct.  I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet, and, contrary to popular rumor (Sybil), neither have I been committed to the local booby-hatchery.  I’ve just been keeping a low profile, trying to reassemble my life after some pretty significant changes (more on that later).  Now on to the reason I’m here – to tell you about Meljean’s latest fantasy romance set in a cool steampunk world, The Iron Duke.

Meljean Brook started this world in a story called “Here There Be Monsters” in the Burning Up anthology.  If you haven’t read the story first, you’ll be okay and shouldn’t get too lost in the details.  But I’d read it – it’s a good story that I’ll review another time.

For those of you who are saying “what the hell is steampunk?”, here’s a quick definition from Wikipedia:

Steampunk is a sub-genre of…  speculative fiction that… involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them…  Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” for such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage’s Analytical engine.

Brook’s world is not so much steampunk dystopia as it is alternative and slightly grungy and full of wicked cool machines and automatons. Oh, don’t forget hawt hawt hawt men and the beautiful, capable women who love them.  If you’re not a huge steampunk fan, I think you’ll be okay with this book.  Steampunk is used as a tool to expand the possibilities, creating surprising situations and solutions, not as a character in itself (thank goodness).

As per usual, I won’t spend time summarizing the plot because the book’s blurb does a dandy job of that.  Instead, I’ll focus on the author’s craft and the flow and feel of the book.

Whenever I read one of Meljean Brook’s novels, I bring my big girl panties.  She doesn’t coddle her readers. You need to keep up – the pace is quick, and she frequently leaves emotions and motivations unsaid.  The reader is often left to draw their own conclusions and to interpret why a character is doing what he/she is doing. We aren’t hammered over and over again with the why or how.  This can be refreshing but it can also be frustrating if the you aren’t tuned into the characters, or have skimmed more than a paragraph or two.

No matter the challenges, this is a very satisfying story. Brook develops a heroine in Mina who is truly heroic and very human.  The love story between Mina and the hero, Rhys, is touching because of all the challenges these two overcome.  We’re left really cheering for them when the plot resolves itself.

The secondary characters are all a lot of fun and add quite a bit of satisfying roundness to the story.  There is an oblique mention of the main characters from the first short story but lots of the secondary are major parts of this new book.  The worldbuilding is incredibly detailed but not unwieldy – just enough to make it fun.

If you’re ready for a change of pace and want to visit an alternative universe that is by turns familiar and bizarre, and want a good dose of romance and sensuality, then this is the book for you.  If you’re a Meljean fan, you really gotta read this.

Gwens IconGrade: A


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.

Mina can’t afford his interest, however. Horde blood runs through her veins, and despite the nanotech enhancing her body, she barely scratches out a living in London society. Becoming Rhys’s lover would destroy both her career and her family, yet 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.

Read an excerpt here (scroll down).

Other books in the series:

Book Cover