K. Bird's Reviews > Dead Iron

Dead Iron by Devon Monk
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Sep 26, 11

Read from September 21 to 26, 2011

In a very different set of voices from Monk's Allie Beckstrom Urban Fantasy series, she delves into a steampunk/magical age of the American Old West.

Set in Hallelujah, Oregon, this book presents us with the tale of a magical creature's attempt to reopen the closed door to his own plane of existence.

Don't be fooled by the cover blurb, this story isn't centered around Cedar Hunt, the man cursed by Pawnee Gods to turn wolf at the full moon in order to hunt and kill the Strange magical folks beginning to swarm the West.

This is an ensemble cast with shifting POV; including the main villain, Shard Lafel, Mae Lindson, a white witch settled out in Hallelujah married to a black man, Jeb Lindson, her husband, killed by Lafel multiple times but pulled back to Mae by vows of love and marriage, Cedar Hunt, the cursed loner on the edge of town drawn to help find a lost boy because of how he lost his own brother, Rose Small, the adopted daughter of the town merchant who is decidedly unladylike in the ways she yearns to devise mechanical contraptions and can see the Strange.

Also important, but not POV, are the Madder brothers, who bring their own magic and ability with matics and tickers from the old country, and Mr. Shunt, a creepy and deadly servant of Lafel.

The richness of the characters, the well-realized town of Hallelujah inhabited by humans, witches, Strange (fae-like magic, but not exactly fae, so very interesting to people like me who've read widely. I especially liked the marriage of magic and mechanics used by the villains, black oil and bugs seeping form wounds-shiver-)and the sheer coolness of ideas makes this book stand out from the pack.

However, and there has to be a however because it doesn't get the whole hearted 5 stars, is my undercurrent of dissatisfaction with both the depth of characterization and the convoluted series of bargains, promises, and pleas made between the main characters.

The shifting POV, while keeping the pace fresh, was sometimes irritating when it shifted away from a POV right when that POV was getting interesting. I'm not talking about the cliff-hangar kind of action moment, but just as I, the reader, got comfortable with Rose or Cedar's voice and wanted to spend more time with them, we'd switch, sometimes for quite a long time.

This is a difficult thing to balance, and Monk does a fairly good job with this, but it did keep me from whole-heartedly jumping in bed with Rose or Cedar or Mae, despite wanting to.

The second issue, which is just a slight one, granted, is the complex series of bargains and deals made between Rose and Cedar, Cedar and Mae, Mae and the Madder Brothers, Madder Brothers and Cedar, Rose and the Madder Brothers, Shunt and Lafel....etc.

While providing a kind of reality to how life in that world must work (keeping one's word about promises made, and the magical aspect of vows) it got just a bit cumbersome keeping track of them all through teh shifting POV's. At one point, Mae's POV starts off looking outside at a darkening sky and realizing Cedar wasn't going to keep his promise to come back....and I had to go back through the book to remind myself which promise when she was referring to.

Regardless, it is a slight beef, not a quarter pounder beef with this intriguing start to Monk's series.

This Book's Food Designation Rating: A plate of delicious small "bites" appetizer-style, where just as you savor one awesome flavor combination, it's all over and you have to go on to the next.
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