The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

27 Apr

I’m back, y’all! This is proof that I survived moving while pregnant – not the best timing, but what can you do? It took me a bit longer to get back into the swing of things than I thought I would. I lie – I’m totally not back into the swing of things, but I’m gonna fake it til I make it. The house is in chaos, my cat is pissed, and I don’t even know where to start to get things in order, but I feel like if I get back into my schedule, things will fall into place.

I haven’t had the wherewithal to read much these past two weeks, so yesterday I grabbed a book I had read previously off my bookshelf and dug in. I know I’m in for something good when I go to my bookshelves, because I only keep the books I really love and want to reread. Everything else, even quite good books that I liked plenty, get traded in at the used paperback store. I’m telling you, that place is genius.

I first read The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, a steampunk-ish alternate history, about a year ago, I’d say. I didn’t remember too much about it, only that I liked it very much and was really impressed by the author. After a few pages, I remembered why. Lady Wilhelmina Wentworth is a police inspector in an alternate London, one that has been enslaved for the past two hundred years by some vaguely Eastern people called the Horde. Recently freed by the heroics of the Iron Duke, a pirate named Rhys Trahaearn, the English people are carving a new future while carrying the baggage of their history, the invasion of “bounders” (recently returned Englishmen who fled to the New World while the Horde was in power), and the presence of nanoagents, or bugs, in their blood. These bugs had been implanted in them by the Horde and, while they allowed “buggers” to be stronger and heal faster, they also contained the key to their enslavement. With the flip of a switch, the Horde could control the emotions of the buggers, lock their bodies immobile, and force them to participate in Frenzies, or sanctioned mating. When Mina gets called to the Iron Duke’s estate to investigate a recently-found corpse, her world collides with pirates, mysterious and sinister underground movements, lady airship pilots, adventurers, and kraken. Sounds like a blast, no?

Brook is so, so good at world-building. I was impressed anew at her ability to not info-dump, but to gradually let you learn about this somewhat dystopian new future, complete with hydraulic body parts, bigotry, and airships. Mina was fascinating – not too tough, not too badass, but in complete control of her career and confident in how she sees herself. She doesn’t take any guff, you know what I mean? But she’s a warm person who has had to learn to stifle her emotions, both to combat the Horde’s control over her and to deal with some of her personal history. The Iron Duke is not dissimilar – his past was damaging at best, but he learned how to use the tools at his disposal to gain control over his life. Neither is used to trusting in the goodness of others, but working together on this case, they discover an eerie connection to each other.

I just loved this book. So much adventure, so much PLOT, every page was something new and exciting. I’m a sucker for steampunk anything, but Brook has a decidedly unique spin on things. Nothing ever seemed wacky or far-fetched – she had a reason and motive behind every character and twist in the plot. Good stuff.

***I know the cover is beefcake-y, but it’s really not a reflection on the true nature of the book. Look past it, or if you like bare man chest, consider it a bonus.

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One Response to “The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook”

  1. Rebecca April 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    From the title, I wasn’t expecting steampunk. This book sounds fascinating. And I’m so glad the move is over for you!

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