Dani Marescotti's Reviews > Heart of Steel

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
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Heart of Steel, originally, sounded incredibly intriguing. What wasn’t to like with the idea of zombies, steampunky-ness and all the cool tech that comes with that, political upheaval, nice serving of romance, a mercenary for a leading female—it sounded perfect to me. Some awesome worldbuilding paired with a intricate plot, loads of action, a badass heroine, and some love interests in there to spice things up. It sounded amazing. It sounded like 5 stars. It sounded like it was something that would keep my interest—especially the bit about the rebellion. Ahhhh, I just love those! Always one of my favorite political elements to pop up, I was looking forward to this one. When da Vinci's sketch attracts a dangerous amount of attention, Yasmeen and Archimedes journey to Horde-occupied Morocco—and straight into their enemy's hands. That line is included in the synopsis. The summary also mentioned that Morocco is also the place where the rebellion is being incited. So I thought I had a little something something to look forward to. Wrong. What's quoted there, happens in the second to last chapter of the book. Like 90+% completed.

I kid you not.

One reviewer, put Heart of Steel in the following terms: "The adventure plot in this story was really fun. I had a great time tagging along as Archimedes and Yasmeen evaded assassins, fought zombies, searched for treasure, hunted murderers in pursuit of vengeance, and sparked a city's rebellion. The action really kept my interest, and, other than the HEA (which is a given, after all), I never would have guessed the ending/resolution for the action/adventure.” ((Link to review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... ))

Although it is true that the aforementioned did all happen, it certainly didn’t read that way in my mind. To give an easy analogy, picture a heart monitor in your head. Heart of Steel was pretty much flat and dead, or with a few scenes, clinging to the last threads of life. When I read a book that claims that there’s gonna be a lotta action and the adventure, and that the stakes are gonna be high, I want an erratic heart monitor, something that reaches so high and within the blink of an eye, stabilizes, before taking off again. Nonstop. Adrenaline-packed. Edge-of-your-seat exciting. And though Heart of Steel did have assassins, and zombie chases, and a rebellion, it was all just so…flat.

I think the main reason for such is that the writing style was so bland. On multiple occasions, I found myself confused as to whether or not someone was talking, if I was reading inner dialogue, who was talking (there was nothing distinctive about the way any of them spoke, no way to differentiate. And there weren’t really any inner thought either), the list just goes on…sooo bland. And another thing that just added to my confusion, was Brook’s excessive pronoun use. It was at times hard to tell who’s POV the scene was from and which “she” or “he” the character was referring to.

So though there were plenty of scenes that could be considered action, they weren’t. I’m sorry. There’s no way I’m calling those action or fight scenes. At times, I literally felt like I was reading a dictionary or phone book, or something of that sort! And then those scenes that were “action” all ended way too quickly! Most—not all—were over before they even began!

This is pretty much how one of those “suspenseful” scenes went:


“No, marine-guys, don’t go down into that clearing. There are zombies. Trust us. We’re experienced adventurers.”
“You’re not the captain!”
*makes some noise, that would attract zombies if they’re there*
*zombies come*
“Oh, you guys were right. There are zombies. Good thing we never even left the airship. Okay, we can continue flying now.”


((Side note on the marines: Okay, for most of their stay on the ship with the leads, I had no clue why the hell they were there, or what purpose they were serving. And even by the end, they didn’t seem to serve any purpose to the airship or crew, but to their ulterior motives, of course. But how’d they gain passage? They weren’t being treated like guests. Not very thought out or clearly explained.))

Yupp. They all pretty much happened in that same fashion.

And another thing about the action/plot—too easy. This was one of those where everything’s waaaay too convenient for the charries. The kind where everything conveniently falls out of the sky. I don’t want to even try to express my disappointment with the ending. All I’ll say is that within span of the second to last, or maybe the last chapter, all the leads’ problems magically evaporated and everything turned out to be a big fat freaking misunderstanding! Seriously. Like the whole reason for all the problems was a misunderstanding. Magically solved. No hurt feelings. Continue on your merry way. No tension! Ugh! Everything could have freaking been avoided with a stupid letter! Unbelievable. Disappointing. Note the lack of suspense/action/climax. Too easy. Everything was too easy.

But besides the convenience of everything, all the charries are really doing is blindly bumbling about in the first place! There are no tough decisions, no real stakes, they don’t ever have to work for anything—everything they do is reactive or falls onto their laps. Hell, even a different charrie, that wasn’t a main, came up with the locations for them to search for their treasure!

I hate reactive books.

And then to make things even better sometime—may the 60% range???—the leads lose sight of their goals. No real thoughts about any of that, how they’re going to get out of the situations they’re in—none of that. Like the already flat, boring plot, veers off its train tracks on top of everything else!

Now, a look at the characters…

Yasmeen is the heroine with the “heart of steel”. She’s also a mercenary, loves money, and the captain of an airship. I do admit, I respected her talents. She was a good fighter as far as I could tell (not that the “action” scenes could give that in-depth of a look…). She came off as very competent with her skills and didn’t make dumb decisions. I liked her for that.

Archimedes is her love interest/the hero. He was charming. Likeable. A thrill-junkie.

BUT…and here’s my big problem with the characters…I felt no attachment to either of them. I liked them…but on a very surface level. Like you’re introduced to someone, and through the one interaction you like them, but you aren’t attached emotionally, and you’d be okay if you never saw them again, but you didn’t find anything in particular that really pushed you away.

It was like that with the protagonists. Liked them, but…If their love story ended tragically, I’d probably just shrug, say, “Too bad,” and move on. Not anything more than a passing thought.

Both characters had to suffer a bit of loss (Yasmeen more so), but I didn’t find myself particularly caring.

I don’t think the problem was their pasts. Both of which had some important events, but besides the delineation of those, were pretty vague. I think the problem was that the POV’s had no emotions. There were practically no inner thoughts, no emotions, nothing poignant. There was just dialogue. In big chunks. Scenery explainations. Worldbuilding dumps. Watching people move about, and descriptions of their actions. And…Yeah, that pretty much covers it. So because of that, no bonds developed between me and the characters and it just contributed to weigh the scenes down.

And…I found the H/H (Hero/Heroine) relationship misleading. Another quote from the synopsis will explain what I mean by that:

As the mercenary captain of Lady Corsair, Yasmeen has learned to keep her heart as cold as steel, her only loyalty bound to her ship and her crew. So when a man who once tried to seize her airship returns from the dead, Yasmeen will be damned if she gives him another opportunity to take control.

Treasure hunter Archimedes Fox isn't interested in Lady Corsair—he wants her coldhearted captain and the valuable da Vinci sketch she stole from him. To reclaim it, Archimedes is determined to seduce the stubborn woman who once tossed him to a ravenous pack of zombies, but she's no easy conquest.


That seems to indicate that they have a pretty intricate past in my mind, and that they are by no means on friendly terms. And yeah, so there was this one thing from their past—Yasmeen killed Archimedes’s father to claim the airship for her own. BUT, he was glad she did, blah blah, they never interacted, he wasn’t there, etc. That was as intricate as their past was, that her airship just so happened to used to be his deceased father’s. I was expecting a love-hate relationship, something reluctant and deep, something complicated—not this.

And the thing is, they’re just so damned friendly with each other! And he wasn’t seducing her because of the sketch, he was—attempting—to seduce her because he “intended to fall in love with her”. He even kept telling her that that’s what he wanted to do—fall in love with her. And though I did enjoy their back-and-forth dialogue, the relationship didn’t turn out at all as the summary had lead me to believe, which, as you can imagine, only further added to my frustration with this novel.

But I think the worst part, is the potential. It’s always the potential. That’s always the worst. When there’s so much, and it can easily be 5-star worthy—only to completely fail my expectations and hope. The worldbuilding was inventive and cool, but not all it could be. It still bore the marks of a draft, and framework ideas—vague in some areas.

This next thing, I’d probably say is my fault. A couple months ago, I downloaded a sample of The Iron Duke on my Kindle, the first novel in this series, and found it boring, so I didn’t pay it that much thought till a couple days ago, when I read the synopsis for Heart of Steel and was intrigued. So, despite the fact that I hadn’t read the first book—even found the sample of the first book bland! *eyetwitch*--I decided to take the chance, and bought Heart of Steel.

Now, since I didn’t read the first book, I found a number of things confusing. Most of it was just keeping up with the names of things and discerning what those names meant, and what side of the war it indicated the person was aligned with. So that added some confusion, but obviously, that was fully my fault and after reading this disappoint, I don’t regret it, beThe Iron Dukecause, even having the titles and associations down, I still would have ranked this low. The nuances of the nanoagents and steampunk technology was pretty easy. As for some of the other political aspects present…They didn’t really read to me like they would have been fully explained in The Iron Duke. I dunno. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m right. Don’t really care enough to find out.

I’d have to say my favorite part about Heart of Steel, was the humor. And even that…mildy humorous. The kind of humor that quirks the corner of your lip up, or occasional draws a soft snicker. It did help to alleviate some of the bland-ness, but it didn’t fully compensate.

Overall…I’d have to say Heart of Steel was like a soda that you opened several hours ago and came back to it, only to find that the drink was flat. It had that potential—there could have been that fizz, that spark—but it just wasn’t there, and you’re left disappointed that your beverage wasn’t as good as you’d expected.
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