The Iron Duke (Iron Seas, #1) by Meljean Brook
Series: The Iron Seas #1
Also in this series: Fire and Frost, Tethered (Novella), The Kraken King Part I, Here There Be Monsters (Iron Seas, #0.5), The Kraken King (Iron Seas, #4), Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2)
Publication Date: January 3rd 2012
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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.
Includes Bonus New Material: Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City
I have a confession to make. I hate reviewing Meljean’s books. I’m never able to fully convey my feelings about them, good or bad. I always end up feeling like I didn’t do the book justice. Regardless, here goes..
As I’ve said before, I’ve been waiting impatiently for this book to release for ages. When Meljean first mentioned she’d be writing a Steampunk series I was thrilled. She really hit it out of the park with this one. Meljean has built a complex yet flawless world with strong, personable characters.
For hundreds of years The Horde controlled the people of London by infecting them with nanoagents (bugs). They hid the bugs in sugar and tea, then activated them and took control of the masses. They used a signal tower to keep control, by suppressing emotions. The Horde controlled everything, including mating. This went on until Pirate Captain Rhys Trahaearn blew up their tower.
8 years later Rhys has been pardoned for all his crimes and been given the title of Duke. He is a symbol of freedom to the English people and therefore above reproach. But Rhys is anything but a hero. He blew up the tower for his own reasons, and he doesn’t care for the people of England outside those he considers “his” (his crew and those who work for him or fall into his jurisdiction as a Duke). Which makes Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth’s job that much harder when a body lands on his front stoop.
Mina is the result of a frenzy (a mating frenzy, controlled by The Horde) her mother was caught in. As such, she’s always been an outcast. Because she resembles The Horde, she has to have a bodyguard with her at all times to protect her from the scorn of other people. Her life isn’t an easy one.
Rhys is a man used to taking what he wants. He doesn’t really care for anyone or anything, though he does have a strong sense of duty. If he considers something his, he takes care of it. When a body lands on his doorstep (literally) it becomes his and he plans to deal with it himself. Unfortunately, Mina puts a damper on things. He plans to use her as much as he can for information, then deal with the situation on his own, but he’s surprised to realize he wants her. In an effort to keep her close, he begins working with her. What ensues is an almost epic adventure.
Mina was such a strong, kickass heroine. She has a no nonsense attitude about life, which helps her deal with some of the nastier aspects of it. She was tough and in charge, but also vulnerable. She reminded me quite a bit of Eve Dallas, from J.D. Robb’s In Death series. She’s had a lot of trials in her life, but she doesn’t let them weigh her down. She’s emotionally closed off in many ways, and rather reserved, but she’s also got a strong sense of family. I loved her.
I absolutely adored Rhys. He was so clueless about social niceties. He kept putting his foot in his mouth, and doing and saying things that that caused embarrassment to himself and others. He didn’t do it on purpose, he just didn’t always think before he spoke. I loved that Mina forced him to look outside himself, to see there was more to the world than just black and white. He makes a lot of mistakes, but that only adds to his depth as a character. Watching him fall for Mina, and opening his eyes to the world around him, was wonderful.
The world-building is complex and amazing. Though I’m not a steampunk aficionado, I was totally wrapped up in the alternate Victorian/Regency world. The machines, advanced technology and bugs were the basis for an astounding new world. Brook has created limitless possibilities here, and opened the door to bring Steampunk into the mainstream. Fans of both Romance and Steampunk will love this equally.
If I have a complaint, it was the ending. I think because I wasn’t ready for the story to end. I wanted more; More Mina and Rhys, more Yasmeen, Lady Corsair, more Scarsdale, more Blacksmith, more Archimedes Fox, more machines, more..everything. Meljean needs to write faster.
I loved the action and adventure and can’t wait for the next installment (not due out for a whole year! The horror!). I’ve already re-read this book several times, and I know I’ll be picking it up again before long.
5 out of 5