Jan's Reviews > The Iron Duke

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
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's review
Jan 30, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: steampunk, romance, stars5, z-2010, favorites, z-2011
Read in November, 2011 , read count: 2

Last time around, I didn't find time to write a proper review, but this time I'm going to write down my thoughts. I was only looking for a particular scene to answer a question of a friend, then got sidetracked and read a bit, and decided to reread it in the end, because it had mesmerized me all over again.

This book pushes all my buttons, and it pushes them hard. Besides Romance novels, Sci-fi and fantasy books are my favorite way to escape reality. This book is such a perfect blend of both genres it makes my heart sing.

The alternative world this series is set in is amazing. It's so WOWZA my words won't do it justice (I've been cursing this paragraph for an hour now). There's just too many lovely little details and nifty ideas. But it never falls into the Steampunk trap of giving to much attention to materials, inventions and technology. The richness of the book lies in the alternative history, which goes far beyond the general premise of "What if electricity was never invented".

The Mongol Horde hid nanoagents, or 'bugs', in the tea and sugar they traded with Great Britain. When they activated the bugs, all people who had them in their system were controlled with radio signals. For 200 years the people of England were thus enslaved, working, living, dying and procreating under Horde command. All emotions were controlled. Until 9 years ago, Rhys Trahearn, a pirate, destroyed the Tower sending the signals, which freed the British people. Europe was entirely destroyed and occupied by the Horde however, the unoccupied regions infested with people infected with rabid bugs.

Now, England is still recovering from the occupation, with tensions between the buggers - the English who lived in occupied England - and the bounders - the people whose forefathers were rich enough to flee England and settle in the New World - who came back after England was liberated.

The author has written a great page on the history behind the book, which gives a good idea of the setting.

Mina Wenthworth was conceived during a Frenzy (a sort of lust-rage caused by the nanoagents that makes people have sex with the nearest person), and unfortunately for her, her mother frenzied with a Horde man. Unfortunately because her Horde features are cause for a lot of hatred, aggression and racism towards her. She deals with it as best as she can, and finds value in her job as a Detective Inspector.

When a body is found on the land of Rhys Trahaern, now called the Iron Duke, she's the investigating officer, but Trahearn doesn't like meddlers with things that are his. Since Trahearn is THE national hero, he tends to get what he wants, so Mina ends up investigating the murder together with Trahearn.

Mina is a very admirable person, easily one of the awesomest heroines I've read about. Due to her hard upbringing in a world that hates her just because how she looks, she's very tough and capable. Not in a feisty and brawny way, but strong-willed and unshakable.

Trahearn's past is maybe even harder, and it has shaped him into someone who thinks in possessions and prices. When he meets someone who doesn't fall at his feet simply because he's the Iron Duke, he's intrigued, and he wants her.

He comes across as very unlikeable at first, all domineering and his talk about possessing people, but I think the problem lies mainly in that he never learned how to express his needs and desires.

The investigation takes them to a lot of places, and during their time together, the romance slowly evolves. I always prefer stories which take time to actually bring the hero and heroine together.

I'm very frustrated at this moment because I realize I'm not doing the story and characters justice at all here. Sometimes books are so good they become impossible to review because it just doesn't do them justice and there's so much to tell

I thought Rhys was a lovely hero. Yes he's aloof and broody and slightly too alphamale. But nobody ever cared for him, so he had to take care for himself. What makes him so awesome, is that he considers everyone who he somehow has a relationship with (his workers, sailors, friends ...) his, so he takes care of them too. He expresses this all wrongly so it rubs against the grain at first, but once you understand what he means and what he does he becomes a true hero. Small spoilerish example: (view spoiler).

I know Rhys' alphamale ways pushed some readers their coercive seduction buttons, but he didn't push mine. He's very domineering, and it does border the line at times, but it never crosses it. The one time it nearly does, it isn't in the old fashioned bodice-rippers way that it's supposed to be sexy to be coercively seduced. It's an actual plot point of a drunken misunderstanding, and I thought both characters dealt with the situation in a convincing and admirable way.

So I loved Mina and loved the Duke. I loved how they were both very complicated characters, shaped by their history and that of their country. I loved the world, its history, its technology, and the political and social problems. I loved the traveling and the other characters (Mina's family, Rhys' friends). I loved the murder mystery and the ramifications of what the Bad Guys were working to.

I loved the steamy bits. I loved the romantic bits. I loved the 'I need to smack some heads together' bits.

I loved this story enough that I immediately bought Burning Up because it's an anthology that has a prequel in novella form. I loved Here There Be Monsters as much as I loved this story.

I loved this book so much, that a reread 3 months after first reading it was equally awesome and mesmerizing, and I stayed up all night to read it all over again.

The only thing I don't really love is this review, because it doesn't convey my love enough.

The Iron Duke pushed my science-fiction buttons, my romance buttons, my history buttons... I'm pretty sure it created steampunk buttons on its own. So I highly recommend it to lovers of romance with a taste of the speculative.

Is this a perfect book? I don't think it is. But it is the perfect book for me.

First Read: October 12 ,2010
Second Read: January 28, 2011
Third Read: November 10, 2011
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Quotes Jan Liked

Meljean Brook
“...she studied his clothes, his top hat. “And you’ve just come from Parliament? How are you finding that?”

“It’s much like piracy. You tell your enemies that if they don’t fall in line, you’ll leave them to die.”
Meljean Brook, The Iron Duke

Meljean Brook
“He focused on the inspector, instead, though she didn't want him watching her. But Rhys liked the way she looked, particularly when her expression suggested that she'd prefer to have a gun aimed at his head rather than sit across from him in a private railcar.”
Meljean Brook, The Iron Duke

Reading Progress

35.0% "Rereading this, and I have to say I'm enjoying it immensely again."
100.0% "It was as great as the first time! Still wished the ending was a little longer, but damn is this an awesome book. Review tomorrow!"

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 2: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Thanks! It's bit all over the place, but I like the ending :)

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