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Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: The Iron Duke


The Iron Duke (A Novel of the Iron Seas)Title: The Iron Duke
Author: Meljean Brook
Page Count: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: steampunk, romance, first in a series
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less:  Detective Inspector Lady Mina Wentworth is charged with investigating the appearance of a dead man on the doorstep of Rhys Trahaearn, Duke of Anglesey and better known as the Iron Duke who defeated the Horde.  What follows is a race against time to save England, secure important and devastating technology, and fight their way to a future together.

I have The Iron Duke to thank for getting me through a couple of really long layovers a couple of weeks ago.  I'd preordered it, sure (steampunk romance?! sign me up!) but I'd saved it for a time when I knew I could read it without interruptions.  This was a good move for me, if I may say so myself, as this is a book that sucks you and doesn't let you go until the last word on the last page.

I'll say at the onset, though, that this isn't a creampuff book, or an easy read.  There are terms to keep track of, technologies to learn about, and a big world with lots of political currents, plotting, and danger. There's also a sizzling romance and an intriguing secondary cast, so if that's all stuff that sounds interesting, read on, read on!

One of my favorite things about this book was the author's willingness to bring up some tough social issues within the context of the story.  Issues of racism, class, economic mobility, life in a post-colonial society, power dynamics within a relationship, sexism, chauvinism, you name it- none of them escape the lens of this book, and the setting and characters are more fully described and vivid for it.

Rhys is not a man who is accustomed to hearing the word no.  He's self made in every sense of the word; he relies on himself to get through the day and uses his network of contacts efficiently and deliberately.  He understands that most people have their price and as a duke and a national hero, he's able to meet most of those prices.

I think that's why he's absolutely flummoxed by Mina- she's a strong, ethical, passionate woman who can't be bought, because what she wants most in the world (love and acceptance) has to be freely and authentically given or else it's absolutely worthless.  Mina thinks she'll be able to play the political game, use the duke's resources to expedite solving her murder case, and move on with her heart intact, a plan which proves to be impossible as the two of them end up traveling the world in the company of the Lady Corsair to try to stop a genocide before it begins.

The romance here is slow and steady in its development; both players have feelings for each other but are afraid to act on them, for reasons that are central to the overall plot.  When they finally do decide to take the plunge, fate intervenes one last time, and the ending had me refusing to blink as I tried to find out what would happen.

This was one of my favorite books of 2010 so far by a long shot. It lives up to the hype and even exceeds it.  If you're looking to try something new, something that will grab you and not let go, then fire up your browser and get your hands on this one!

Overall Grade: A++
BWB Rating: 4/4

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