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The Iron Seas #1

The Iron Duke

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After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power - and fear - of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.

384 pages, Paperback

First published October 5, 2010

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About the author

Meljean Brook

47 books2,541 followers
Book info: I am the author of the Iron Seas steampunk romance series. I've written a guide to the world (including a map) on my website.

I also write a paranormal romance series, the Guardians. That series guide is also on my website, including a "The Story So Far" feature, which allows you to catch up on all of the books that previously released in the series if you start after the first installment.

Goodreads info: I am slowly, slowly adding to my shelves and reviews. It's unlikely that I will join many book discussions (especially of my own work) simply because I don't want to stifle reader conversation.

Bio: Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances. She left the forest and went on a misguided tour through the world of accounting before focusing on her first loves, reading and writing–and she realized that monsters, superheroes, and happily-ever-afters are easily found between the covers, as well as under them, so she set out to make her own.

Meljean lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,052 reviews
Profile Image for Joel.
551 reviews1,574 followers
January 26, 2011
Dear dad,

I know you follow and read my goodreads reviews, which I appreciate, really, but I just wanted to let you know that while this is a sci-fi/alternate history book that is pretty interesting in a lot of ways it is also a romance novel that I read for a book club and it has lots of VERY EXPLICIT sex parts that I might mention, explicitly, in this review. So it is ok if you don't want to read this one.

Sincerely, your son

The Iron Dukes sits at the intersection of everywhere and nowhere in terms of my reading habits: it's science-fictiony, which is a genre I enjoy and read a decent amount of (I even have a dedicated book club!) and it's a romance, which I have never read at all unless you count just reading the sex scenes in books I thought might be dirty when I was about 11. Which I think we can agree is really not the same thing.

I certainly had some preconceived notions about romance books that I can't say have been proven or disproven by this one, because being an alternate-history steampunk story that is actually a rather ambitious yarn, I wager it makes an effort in terms of narrative that something like Wicked Harvest perhaps does not. That said, there are also sex scenes that are, if anything, rather raunchier than what I expected to read, forgoing polite euphemisms almost entirely (Search Results: Showing All 24 Instances of the Word "Cock"). And it still has a rippling, shirtless male chest on the cover -- thanks for the save, Kindle edition!

So first let us discuss the part of the book I liked, which was the non-romancy part: Steampunk is a genre I have a passing familiarity with, having read quite a few books often categorized that way (though like most sub-genres of sci-fi, categorization is somewhat arbitrary). It's also the hot fad right now, which is why it totally makes sense that an author who just got done cashing in on paranormal romance would give it a go. And as a genre effort, The Iron Duke is... surprisingly good. It creates a pretty interesting alternate Victorian era in which Europe has been ravaged by a mysterious force known as The Horde that has infected the populace with tiny nanomachines that allow them to be controlled via radio towers, and The Iron Duke is lauded as a hero for saving the populace from the mind control menace. There are a bunch of well imagined extraneous details that I loved, such as the fact that cats infected with nanoagents have become armored, unkillable predators, and also there are steel sharks and giant kraken (!).

This is all absolutely ridiculous, of course, but steampunk almost always is -- I haven't read one book yet that truly justified how such advanced technology could be invented so long ago with just a few tweaks of the timeline (did you know if Abe Lincoln hadn't been assassinated, for example, by 1900 the U.S. army would have defeated Mexico with the aid of robotic exoskeletons? It's true, look it up). The important part is that it is fun to read about, and the book does a pretty good job of sketching this world without going into exhaustive and unnecessary detail (which might have resulted in me not entirely understanding the plot, but based on other reviews, that was my fault). And it actually has a well-developed (not like that!) (No, really, not like that, we are told) and interesting female protagonist for the most part. Police inspector Mina is strong-willed and opinionated and unwilling to sit back and act pretty in proper Victorian fashion, and she is a lot more fun to read about than the bland heroine of Boneshaker, which was one of the most-celebrated sci-fi novels of 2009 that I happened to find very nearly terrible. She's investigating a murder that will come to involve politics the world over, as well as, of course, The Iron Duke!

Because yes, it is also, unfortunately, a romance novel, and why? The answer seems to be that romance is the kind of book the author can sell, because she doesn't seem particularly into creating a nuanced relationship between Mina and the Duke (who has a name but it totally doesn't matter). Because while Mina operates in an interesting political and social sphere, where we can see how the influence of Horde control has changed the ways traditional gender roles are perceived, with many women freely allowed to be badass and promiscuous without anyone batting an eyelash, the attraction between the leads is rote and unmotivated and totally uninteresting, like instantly HE MUST HAVE HER and even though she wants to resist, the Duke just makes her feel all HOT DOWN THERE and this goes on for pages and pages, often stopping the very interesting thriller/murder mystery plot cold.

At first the purple prose is just annoying ("No armor. No buckles. Only a few layers of cotton and ten feet of parlor separated his mouth from her breasts."), but then the sexytimes really kick in and the author just starts cutting and pasting and rearranging stock phrases like "rigid" and "lips" and "wet" and "suck" and "arching" and calling them sex scenes, and they aren't particularly interesting. I couldn't stop thinking of "I put on my robe and wizard's hat", which if you have not read you really must go and read RIGHT NOW (and then go read all of these).

I mean, this: "Her musky scent threatened to drive him out of his mind, more heady than any perfume, any wine." Or this: "You inspired me... You didn't have to fight when you destroyed the Horde. So I decided to make your tower explode." Or, god, this one: "His heavy sac (?) buffeted (!?) her clitoris with each annihilating (!?!) stroke." I mean, come on, get back to the giant squid attack.

And I haven't even touched all the really odd gender dynamics at play, and the way Mina is independent but really appears to want to be dominated and the Duke is a caring dude but also pretty much a rapist by the end (and he is doing it for her own good question mark?). Ceridwen's review made an interesting point about how Mina is trying to come to terms with a past sexual violation through her experiences with the Duke (the Horde used to use their tower to whip the populace into sex Frenzies so they would produce more worker bees), and that aspect makes their interactions a bit more compelling, but I don't think it is developed consistently enough to be interesting rather than just... off-putting (unless you like to read about rape). I know some people who have been sexually abused can certainly become aroused in recreating those situations through sex play (thanks for the info, Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast!), but it didn't quite work for me here. I needed more of Mina than her lame internal struggles if I'm going to give the book that much credit.

Um, so this is getting pretty long. I will say that for my first romance, it was A LOT better than I was expecting it to be, and I think toning down the explicit sex, reducing the emphasis on the myopic leads' hormones and beefing up the sci-fi elements a bit more could have made this an excellent genre entry. Instead it's a weird hybrid, but a pretty good read.

Search Results: Showing All 13 Instances of the Word "Rigid"
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16k followers
January 18, 2011
This is the third novel I've read belabelled Steampunk and so far it is the best.

Unlike Clare's rendition of Clockwork Angel, Brook's The Iron Duke doesn't nervously flirt with Steampunk but wantonly embraces it like a Steampunk addict chasing after its next hit.

Similarly to Carriger's Soulless, The Iron Duke is heavy on romance though with far more satisfying love scenes and lacking in the supernatural, paranormal element.

No, Brook understands Steampunk and she executed it well, creating a world styled off 19th century England but with a rich and textured history. Don't be fooled by the confusing, awkward and clunky beginning. Brook didn't choose the best method to relay the backstory of Horde control and a mechanical population at odds with the wealthy elitists who refuse "nanoagents".

However, this confusing introduction is soon swept away by the fantasy of men with piston-operated arms, mechanical eyes, steel-plated sabre-cats, Krakken, air-ships, automatons and all the whimsy that a novel like this deserves.

The story may revolve around the romance of the two leads, The Iron Duke and Mina, an intelligent, cold, strong Inspector, but it also focuses heavily on the mystery and adventure aspect. It includes a full cast of interesting and rich characters, enough turns and twists to keep you guessing and different, textured environments to keep you turning the page.

The romance began, for me, as the weakest aspect of this story. The Iron Duke, Trahearn, Rhys or whatever you want to call him, is An Alpha with a capital A. In fact, he rarely deviates from the genre mainstay as the rich, capable, manly, intelligent person who is immediately dazzled and enchanted by the cold, resisting heroine. In fact, he was downright giving me Woodiwiss flashbacks.

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No! No! Please! No!!!!

You know who I'm talking about. The kind of RAM (Romanticized Alpha Male) who thinks No means, "You just haven't gotten me helpless and alone enough" and who eventually comes to hold dearer the heroine's continued rebuffs over any freely available blowjob. Every time I read one of these books, I can't help but think the writers are kidding themselves. Yes, your heroine is ewnique and special but if he can get it easier from a tavern wench, then why bother with the cold, frigid heroine? After reading that sentence, I'm kind of wondering whether I should have been born a man...

bar wench
The bar wench is easier, she comes with beer and she won't expect you to call her in the morning. What's not to love?

However, all is saved by the female protagonist, Mina. Two words: Kick. Ass. There is nothing stupid, helpless, ineffectual or ridiculous about her. She manages to get through the ENTIRE novel without making me hate her for existing. Which is what female protagonists having been doing to me a lot lately (*shakes fist at almost the entire YA genre). Not only that, but her competence and intelligence makes sense since she is, indeed, an inspector and she damn well acts like one. She pulls a gun if she needs to and she gets shit done all the while being professional, capable, yet realistic and... well, pretty damn relatable. Also, the sex. And don't lie and think it's not that important. It's damn important and Brook definitely delivers on that part. Which makes Mina's character that little more likable to me as she isn't the virginal prude. In fact, a lot of this novel was about her developing a comfortableness with her own sexuality, which I really enjoyed.

And as the novel progresses, Trahearn becomes more human and less RAM. I wouldn't say I ever truly warmed to him completely. He still remained pretty firmly in the RAM camp but Mina and his relationship with her was just so awesome that I managed to forget it. Maybe it's because he came on way too thick at the beginning. I don't find it sexy when a man corners me and kisses me against my will when I've repeatedly told him no. I didn't find it sexy in this novel either. In fact, Brook was a little too happy with this plot device and at a couple of points managed to make me quite annoyed with Trahearn. But then Mina shot him and I felt so much better.

SOooooooo much better!

Over all, I felt the writing was solid, the story telling became fantastic after the first clunky scene and that this book was a very solid four stars.

In fact, if Brooks had written Trahearn just a little differently, I think I might even have given this story five stars. Still, as it is, it's a very good read. I recommend it to romance readers, steampunk enthusiasts and anybody who's just into a fun, adventure novel that won't let you down in the imagination department.

This novel is kind of like that... awesome with a side of bullet sandwich!
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
November 15, 2018
zombies. kraken. pirates. automatons. marriage reform. nanotech. mongols. just another classic steampunk romance, right? or maybe not - this is my first one.

it was crazy - none of the other bodice rippers wanted to read the shapeshifter romance!! come on guys!!shapeshifters!!! romance!!! i am so curious about the mechanics of it, but i am not going to read one without the protective cloak of the rest of the rippers.

so -steampunk...

i mean, honestly, there wasn't anything wrong with this book; it replicated a lot of the typical romance conventions and fell into the same booby-traps (which is totally not the right word, but i got to say "booby") - two strong-willed people like this shouldn't really spend this much time running away from each other, legitimate reasons or no. sex should not be this complicated. in this book, racial and gender issues were legitimate roadblocks, but between the two of them they had guns and money and a title and and self-confidence and an iron freaking skeleton - these two should not have anything standing in the way of whatever they want. these are the kind of people who tell other people the way things are going to be, not sheep people who are slaves to silly societal norms. i mean, i personally would not have put up with his sexual pushiness, but she seems okay with occasionally being pushed up against a wall and getting the physical equivalent of "you mean yes when you say no, right??" so to each his own.

but he is such a schizophrenic male lead. sometimes he is a calculating pushy rapist, sometimes he is all secret philanthropy and delicate treatment of the feelings of others.but who needs consistency? who reads to reconcile conflicting personality traits?? shes got a burning knot, he's got a hot ridge of flesh - these crazy kids were made to clench and twine and growl and clutch and rub!! we are in romance country, it doesn't need to make sense or have any real-world applications!

and her - she can save kids from monsters but she can't figure out how to get laid?? this world is kind of awesome; i would much rather have had the conflict be external (zombie, war, monsters) than internal "noooo don't put your mouth on my vagina, it makes me too craaaaazy". i mean, there is plenty of external conflict, i just think her sexual resistance was (while explained adequately) retarted and less interesting than zombies.

but the rest of it was pretty fun. i should probably read more fantasy, so i can get those muscles honed, because it took me more time than i care to admit to get myself situated in this world. i had to go back and reread several pages over and over, and it wasn't her fault, it was me - there were so many details that i had trouble cementing them in this here swiss-cheese brain.

so, for a bodice ripper read, it was better than most.
i like reading things i would never read otherwise - it makes me (a) broad.

come to my blog!
January 6, 2023
1st Reread Completed in August 2022.

I listened to this on audiobook. Thoughts I would add for this read:

* The racism against Asians made me so uncomfortable. I'm sure that was the point, but it really made me cringe. I think listening to the audiobook, makes the ugliness of racism even more vivid. I felt Mina's hurt and trauma so intensely as I listened to this book. I'm sure it bothered me the first time I read this, but I feel like the last six years have scarred my perceptions so much that it's even more of a sensitive issue for me.

*The story is super engaging and kept my interest even though I had already read it. I forgot some parts of the story, so it was like listening to it for the first time. It stands up well to a reread in that regard.

*The narrator was really strong. They did a great job with the voices for all the characters. They really captured Rhys well. Some of the dialogue was just, wow, hearing out loud. The sexy times were very impactful as well! The chemistry between Rhys and Mina is just crazy in this book.

*I think my rating is sitting at around 4.5 stars because of how the racism hit me. I won't take my overall rating down from the previous one I gave because it's really a good book, and that is more of a me processing trauma kind of thing when I listened to it this time.

I have to hand it to Meljean Brook. She created a wonderfully-detailed and fantastical world in this book. If a reader is wondering what 'steampunk' is, I will definitely point them towards this book. I was very impressed how she integrated nanotechnology into her world-building, and the nanotech fit very well in this universe. There are some aspects that seem rather dystopian, despite the fact that this is a Victorian-like setting. The use of robotic technology has some great applications, but some are rather horrific. In this story, a large degree of the world, particularly Europe and associated continents, has been subjugated by the Horde, which I intepreted to be the Mongols (as in Genghis Khan). Many of the major cities of Europe are under occupation or have been razed to ruins. Zombies roam the unoccupied territories, humans who were infected by nanobots that caused them to become vicious, cannibalistic monsters. However, many regular humans are infected with nanobots that enhance them in many positive, and some negative ways. The problem is that the Horde can control those humans, called buggers, with radio signals. In this world, the Horde are hated and despised, which creates a lot of problems for the heroine, Mina. She is the product of a Horde "frenzy" in which control of her mother's body (via control of the nanobots by radio signals) was overtaken by the Horde, and she engaged in a Horde orgy, resorting in Mina. She was so horrified at the sight of her half-Horde baby that she gouged her eyes out. Yeah, right away, I knew this story was going to be kind of dark.

I was very impressed with the meticulous world-building and attention to detail in this story. In addition, there are several major players who all want a say in the future of England, and the rest of the world, grabbing any kind of power or edge they can to gain that. This book has everything: mechanically-enhanced humans and animals, pirates, zombies, giant sea monsters, airships, you name it. However, it was so well-done, it never came off as over-the-top. While this book probably wouldn't work for straight romance fans, or even some fantasy/science fiction fans, I loved it, because I got a kick out of how imaginative and unique this Victorian world was. Despite my enjoyment, this wasn't an easy read for me. I often had to reread certain passages to make sure I was getting a clear understanding (that's not due to Ms. Brook's fault, but to my inexperience in reading a lot of science fiction-type literature and not having a head for political intrigue storylines). That's okay, because I wanted to get a full grasp of this book, and it certainly enhanced my enjoyment.

In my opinion, Ms. Brook didn't let her romance fans down. The love story between Rhys and Mina is equally important. I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Iron Duke when I started this book. When he showed up, I was not disappointed. He's a very unique character, which some aspects that I had not encountered in a hero thus far. I loved his vitality, his ruthless nature, his determination. Mina has a pull on him that compels him throughout this book. He is the kind of man who will move mountains to get his woman, which definitely works for me. Even outside of that, I respected him for his strength in enduring a very rough past, his determination to do what was necessary and to protect others. He might have seemed self-absorbed (he put importance on protecting what was his, whether it was his ship, the sailors, on it, or his properties and subjects as the Iron Duke). He didn't really like the ceremony of being a Duke, but he took the responsibility seriously, because that was the kind of man he was. He wasn't a smooth, refined character, which is fine with me. When he considers his feelings for Mina, they are described in a very rough way, but the emotions behind them are pure, and he definitely shows his love for her, not just physical infatuation.

As for Mina, I couldn't have liked her more as a heroine. She's tough, really tough. But she's not hard or frustrating. Any armor she has, I can't fault her for it. Because of her heritage as half-Horde, she is despised by many in London. They try to attack and harm her physically, so she has to have a bodyguard at all times, the hulking but gentle Constable Newberry. Those who don't hate her, fear her because her features remind them of the Horde. This aspect of the story hit home with me. Prejudice of any kind always does. Being judged by your features, your heritage, the color of your skin is wrong. Even if there are many of your heritage who are bad, that doesn't mean that you are. Because of being a woman and half-Horde, Mina has to work four times as hard just to be respected for her abilities as a Detective Inspector, and she's not afraid to do that. Rhys determined pursuit is a huge problem for her. She knows that their involvement is just going to cause more fodder for the distrust and lack of respect that the public holds for her. Even if she's very attracted to him, and he reaches her carefully guarded heart.

The relationship between Rhys and Mina develops very well. They start out as untrusting allies, with a reluctant attraction. As the story progresses, they come to respect and understand each other, and the love blossoms between them naturally. And their passion is red-hot. Rhys is a primal, demanding lover. However, he doesn't force Mina. Understanding what her issues are about being in control of her passions, he patiently works past those issues, and it's a beautiful thing to read. He won't be the kind of guy who whispers sweet, elegant words in a woman's ear. But he shows and tells a woman how much she means to him in simple, but effective ways. That definitely speaks to me. As for as Rhys and Mina getting their HEA, just being in love wasn't enough. They had to deal with the issues that they faced with their enemies, and the society they lived in. Although the romantic in me loves when a couple can easily surmount obstacles and be together, the realistic knows that's not always a simple thing. I like that Ms. Brook didn't allow their problems to just blow away in a puff of smoke because Mina was a "great person" and Rhys was the powerful "Iron Duke." However, I was completely satisfied with the romantic conclusion in this story, which I am very glad to say.

My experience with steampunk is fairly limited, but I love the ideas and the concepts of this genre of fantasy/science fiction. I highly recommend this novel to a reader who wants to experience this genre. Although this is not a simple world, there's a very fascinating world here that Ms. Brook created. The complex textures--Victorian setting, science fiction, fantasy, pulp fiction, adventure, romance, seafaring/pirate elements--just made this an even better read for me. This was a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing book, and I will be looking out for the forthcoming books in the Iron Seas series with great expectation.
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 28 books128k followers
October 27, 2010
I enjoyed it a LOT, just one thing brought it down from 5 stars, which I will specify at the end. (BTW Has VERY racy scenes as a warning to the non-smutty lovers, but that wasn't my -1 star point haha)

I would give worldbuilding: 5 stars. The first chapter is a bit confusing, but the world that is spun out over the novel is ENDLESSLY interesting, one of the few books that has made me read SLOWLY to see what all the steampunk stuff really is about. FASCINATING history with the Horde and the nanobugs, I just cannot sing praises enough about the rich playground the author has invented here. Looking forward to MANY more books in this world.

Heroine: 5 stars. LOVE LOVE LOVED THIS CHARACTER! I thought the worldbuilding lent itself to the creation of a very rich character, one that deals with ostracism and race in a way that is so understanding, so interesting SO NOT CLICHED. I really thought this character could be one that arcs over book after book without settling down with a guy, she was that strong. For a very romance book, it's a relief and a pleasure. I was rooting for her all the way pretty much.

Hero: 3 stars :( UHHHHHG. Ok, he was hot sometimes, but honest to god the word "Shag" just rubbed me the wrong way, IN ADDITION he was kinda a bully and just tried to force the heroine to do what he wanted in a way that felt almost predatorial. Now, some of this was because of his backstory, but no one else really called him out on his bullying, not even the heroine most of the time. If you read my reviews I'm not a big fan of "YOU MY WOMAN" men, so this might be my peeve, but I had to express some reservation for the record.

ANYWAY, loved the book, if you're into the racy steampunk/scifi/fantasy/historical romance genre, this will be a hit for you :) Looking forward to the next!

Profile Image for Catherine.
523 reviews538 followers
September 19, 2010
I won this ARC in a contest at Dear Author.

I have a confession to make... I was afraid to read this book. I have a serious love affair with this author's Guardian series. I mean, how many of my Goodreads friends did I nag into reading it lately? Five? I know they finally broke down and read it just to shut me up, but that's okay, because they loved it anyway and I got more people to talk about it with. So, I was afraid something would happen and I wouldn't be able to get into the new series and I'd lose a favorite author. Thank God I slapped the neurotic out of myself and read it! It was great!

So this is an alternate view of England. Two hundred years ago some of the English, now referred to as bounders, fled the Horde and only returned to England after the Iron Duke had broken the Horde control. The bounders aren't very popular because they've come back to try to claim their titles and their land and are rich, while the people of England who stayed and suffered are poor. The Horde hid nanoagents (or bugs) in the sugar they traded with England. When the time was right, they activated the bugs and thus began the Horde control. Nine years ago, the Iron Duke had broken the Horde control on England. For his trouble, his pirating was pardoned and his was awarded a Dukedom.

This book opens with Mina Wentworth being called to the house of the Iron Duke to investigate a murder. She works for the Metropolitan Police Force and is very good at her job. The Iron Duke, Rhys Trahaearn, is willing to let her investigate, but wants to be involved and informed of all the particulars. Because of his particular status in England, Mina is forced to agree.

It took me a while to figure out exactly why Mina was a pariah in her own society. I don't know if the author was slowly hinting at it, or if I'm just slow, but it took me a while to figure out exactly who the Horde were and why her connection to them would be easy to spot. I was expecting something to do with the nanos or prosthetics. I had a lightbulb moment midway through and felt really dumb. Please let it have been the author's plan and not me being dense! :P Once I figured it out, those insults made a lot more sense...

The beginning of this book was hard for me to get into. Not because of the writing or the characters or anything, it just took me a while to fully acquaint myself with the technology aspect of it. I've got to admit, I find it a lot easier to watch a steampunk movie than read a steampunk book. A movie requires much less understanding for me than a book, and I'll own it - I just don't understand engines. The details start coming about engines and machines and it just blows my mind. So, I think this won't affect anyone who understands these aspects better than I do. I struggled for a while, but did eventually understand the technology and the world. But that lack of understanding isn't unique to this book. I always feel it when reading steampunk. It's just me.

I loved the characters in this book! Not just Mina and Rhys, but the side characters too. Yasmeen, Lady Cosair, a merchant captain with a bad ass attitude. Archimedes Fox, the adventurer who seems to have quite an attachment to one of the other characters. Scarsdale, an excellent character who despairs about Trahaearn's blunt speech and who is incapable of getting onto an airship without being extremely drunk, drugged, or knocked out. And then there's Mina's coworker, Constable Newberry... What an absolute sweetie. I really enjoyed his relationship and loyalty to Mina.

Mina was an excellent heroine. She's smart and assessing at all times. She doesn't go looking for trouble, but she won't back down either. The years under Horde control have had a huge impact on her. She will not be controlled again. Not by a person, and not by her own emotions. Her situation in life is so sad. Where can she go so people will look at her and see something other than the Horde? She is constantly having to hide in the shadows and prove her own worth. Poor girl. She lives in fear, although it is not always apparent. Fear of being controlled, fear of being hurt, fear of being the cause of her family's suffering. Her every action is influenced by those fears.

Rhys is a hero who just wants to be ignored. He likes the power and influence his name gives him, but he doesn't want the hero worship. He doesn't want people to look at him and thank him, it makes him uncomfortable. The public takes his image and runs with it and no one seems to care about the truth of his past. He doesn't care, a lie can serve him better than the truth at times. Unfortunately, he seems to forget the image he has been given and pushes Mina and tests her, not knowing that she's judging his actions by who she thinks he is.

Rhys had a really harsh childhood that has shaped his view of the world and his relationships to people. He values people by their use to them and keeps them or discards them depending on their value. He knows that everyone has a price, and has no problem with manipulating someone into the situation he wants them to be in. Thank goodness for Scarsdale. He's the voice of reason telling Rhys when he's fumbling things with his pursuit of Mina. I cracked up at the severe understatement of the term, "bad sport," that Rhys and Scarsdale kept throwing around. I loved Rhys though, because once he figured out that his manipulation was doing more harm than good he dropped it and started tweaking another angle.

There is a part in this book that I think is going to make some readers uncomfortable. I, personally, loved that it was there and that they had to deal with it in an honest and adult way. It was, sincerely, an honest mistake. Rhys didn't mean to do it like that, and Mina couldn't help her reaction. I loved how it all worked out.

Can I just point out that there are zombies in here! How cool is that? I didn't read the summary of the book, I just wanted it based on the author, so they were a big surprise. I loved their roll and I loved the explanation for their existence!

The only problem I had was toward the end. Mina and Rhys and their total miscommunication made me want to smack their heads together. It totally fit with their characters, and the fact that they seem to speak a different language at times, but I still found it a bit frustrating. I just wanted to sit them both down and have an intervention! But it was wonderful too.

I cannot wait to read the next book!!!
Profile Image for Mir.
4,780 reviews4,984 followers
January 13, 2011
This book was both lots of fun and quite disappointing.

The alternate history of a Mongol-dominated England with mind-controlling nanoagents, steampunk body grafts, and forced social reorganization was original and fascinating. Brook worked the steampunk elements into the story and the lives of the characters in a more intimate and plot-effecting way, and she also showed how the political and scientific changes common to this genre would not be superficial window-dressing on the same old Victorian-stereotype world but would cause changes in gender roles, family relations, local and world economies, international diplomacy, religious practice -- this is some fascinating territory for exploration she is setting up here.

And then. Then. Instead of developing all this really awesome material, she decided to write a romance. And not even a good romance. A generic romance. The same disgusting, sexist, rapey “romance” people have been writing for decades. A woman who seems strong and independent but is afraid of her emotions and desires. An ultra-alpha-male man who overpowers her and forces himself on her, because no doesn’t mean no, especially if women are saying no for practical reasons like not wanting lose their jobs and reputations. But because this is a romance the reader knows the two main characters are Meant To Be so it doesn’t count as rape. And we know they are in love even though they pretty much just think about and have lots of un-hot sex. Because in Romancelandia being really horny for a particular person proves that person is your One True Love. Even if you don’t like them.

I don’t want to go on an anti-romance rant here. I have no issue with stories including romance as an element. I even think the romantic pairing here could have been good, especially if Brook had spent more pages fleshing out Rhys’ personality instead or his, er, flesh. His character here seemed, not precisely two-dimensional, but one-sided. We see his aggression, his controlling nature, his sense of responsibility – the elements anyone meeting him would identify. Even when we get the story from his point of view, there aren’t a lot of other personality traits. And that made it hard to see him and Mina falling in love. Rather than instant lust followed by standard romance-genre manipulations and throbbings, I would have enjoyed a process where in the course of fighting zombies and solving mysteries, two people learned to respect one another and fell in love.

This uninspired, unoriginal romance story was especially disappointing because it took away time from a story and a world that I really did want to hear more about. There were several elements that could have been explored more fully, and some fairly important inconsistencies that should have been worked out. For instance, if marriage hasn’t been the norm for generations, and most people don’t live in nuclear families, why is it that it would ruin Mina’s reputation to have people know that she had a lover? Brook actually states at one point early on that most women live in small groups with their kids and support themselves and one another, so obviously they must be taking lovers. I felt that Brook wanted think about ways in which society could be different and explore how mores are artificial – and then at the same time she wanted to stick with hoary old tried-and-true romance themes even when they didn’t make sense. I wish she had used the page space spent describing sex to instead develop how society had changed or why the Horde made giant sharks or giving more details about the Ivory Market. Or even working out some of the kinks in the plot!
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,619 reviews4,956 followers
May 23, 2018
London freed by the former pirate "The Iron Duke" is still a London chock-full of resentment, violence, economic insecurity, destroyed body parts replaced by machinery, and racism against half-breeds descended from the city's former masters, the Mongolians known as The Horde. Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is one of those luckless, product of - and later, victim of - the ability of the Horde to make their pet English do as they pleased, sexually and otherwise. Inspector Wentworth has a lot to deal with: everyday contempt from Londoners still angry over their former servitude, a noble family in dire financial straits, a body dropped from a zeppelin onto the Iron Duke's estate, and a beloved younger brother lost or kidnapped. Perhaps her biggest problem, one she won't admit even to herself: she has a hankering for that Iron Dick.

Overall this was surprisingly impressive, despite its laughable cover and designation as some sort of Steampunk Romance (not that I have anything against Steampunk or Romance). Meljean Brook is a really talented writer and the world she constructs is almost dizzying in its complexity and layers of history. But the story never feels cluttered. This alternate England is deeply, richly imagined - so much so that it could have been too much. Brook's imagination is a fertile one, and in the hands of a lesser author, the story could have been easily overwhelmed by all of the creativity on display. But her smooth, exciting narrative and deliberate parsing out of details give her book an appealing suppleness. This is an easy world to get lost in!

The romantic elements are key - this being a romance novel, after all, and despite all of the fun, strange worldbuilding - and those scenes ended up being either the most tedious or some of the more striking parts of the novel. Fortunately, the romance improves over the course of the story.

To the former: Mina's constant perception of the Iron Duke as one very bad and very untrustworthy dude becomes very very tiresome, very very quickly. It really gets ridiculous and it just goes on and on. Eyes were rolled, very hard. The Duke's instant obsession with Mina alternates between creepily aggressive and amusingly sweet and soft; despite that schizophrenia, overall he was not a particularly interesting character.

But to the latter: the reader soon learns that Mina's hesitation around intimacy is coming from her experience with intimacy being forced upon her. (And it turns out that that is something she has in common with her paramour.) Rape and its emotional aftermath are topics that deserve to be treated with delicacy and empathy; I really respected Brook's skill and care when dealing with such things. She made those past traumas central to her two protagonists' psyches and profound influences on their sexual behavior, yet she also made sure that the impact of those traumas could be overcome. Good job, author.
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
May 23, 2012
Hordes! Buggers! Bounders! Frenzy, oh my!

What a world. It took a while for me to understand this extremely imaginative world, but I enjoyed every moment of this book.

The Iron Duke portrays an alternative history in a very different Europe. The Horde controls people through nanotechnology. People, especially those living in polluted London, are infected with these agents because they have healing properties. When certain radio frequencies are transmitted, the infected people, known as the Buggers go into a Frenzy.

This is a world full of imaginative contraptions and genetically/mechanically altered creatures and zombies, too! There are airships, mechanical carts, mechanical page turners, even mechanical sex toys. Mechanically altered people exist as well, reminiscent of Star Trek’s Borg.

Our story begins when a man is dropped from an airship on to The Iron Duke’s house. Inspector Mina Wentworth is dispatched to investigate the crime. The Iron Duke, also known as Rhys Traheaern, is immediately attracted to Mina. Rhys arranges to use his former pirate contacts in order to help Mina solve the crime.

Rhys uses this opportunity to get closer to Mina, the woman he wants to shag. The romance aspect is not spectacular, but there are some hot and heavy moments.

I really enjoyed the author’s sense of humor. There were some really funny lines and some very clever pillow talk.

Did I mention that there are sea monsters in this book? “Release the Kraken!” A most memorable scene with a very large, mechanically enhanced sea monster kept me at the edge of my seat.

I loved the secondary characters, especially Yasmeen, The Lady Corsair. Airship pilot, mercenary, I hope that there are more stories planned for her – just her acrobatics alone were spectacular.

So there you have it – a book with zombies, sea monsters, Borg-like people, all sorts of mechanical gadgets. Can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

Update May 23, 2012 - The Iron Duke is now on the Badass Book Reviews' Best Badass Zombie Books List. Check it out!
Profile Image for Jeaniene Frost.
Author 54 books25.9k followers
February 9, 2011
I almost didn't try this because steampunk usually isn't my thing, but this is a great book.
Profile Image for Ridley.
359 reviews317 followers
October 9, 2010
A few hundred years before the novel opens, the Asian Horde took over much of the Western world with a mix of force and superior technology. Lacking any navy of merit, they had to be a bit creative in their attack on Britain, choosing to smuggle nanoagents into the cheap sugar and tea they exported to the island nation. As the people ate and drank, they unwittingly infected themselves with tiny bits of self-replicating machinery. While the "bugs" made people stronger, hastened healing and allowed a wide range of prosthetic enhancements, the downside was that the Horde could control the infected via a radio frequency transmitted by a tall tower in London.

The story takes place nine years after Rhys Trahaearn, now known as the Iron Duke, blows up the tower, freeing all of Britain from Horde control. After a bloody revolution where a mad populace attacked the Horde and each other in a fury borne of a lifetime of tight control suddenly ended, Britain is at a crossroads. The descendants of the wealthy Brits who fled England before they were infected have returned, creating tension between the infected "buggers" and the uninfected "bounders" as to who has more right to Britain. Does it belong to the people who spent the past few hundred years hiding out in Manhattan City in the New World, or to those who endured and overcame Horde rule, but will always be susceptible to control because of their bugs?

In the midst of this heady drama, a body literally lands on the Iron Duke's front steps and Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is called in to investigate. Born after a "Frenzy," where a Horde signal causes all buggers to copulate with each other, she's the half-breed daughter of a English countess and a Horde member who was at the state dinner her mother was attending. Though her parents are noble and she's a distinguished member of the Metropolitan Police force, she encounters constant abuse due to her Asian features. As a result, she's a bit like Eve Dallas - a big squishy ball of insecurities well hidden under a granite facade. Through the love of her supportive family and a singular dedication to her work, she gets by in a world she feels completely apart from.

Working on the mystery of the body tossed onto the Iron Duke's steps tests her resolve. As a former pirate, Rhys is accustomed to taking whatever it is her desires, and he decides that Mina will be his latest acquisition. As they fly and sail around England, Europe and Africa unraveling the murder mystery and uncovering a doomsday plot that endangers all the buggers in Britain, the two also are working to figure each other out. Rhys is determined to have her, and Mina is determined to resist him, lest everything she or her family has worked for go up in smoke in the subsequent mockery of the Iron Duke taking up with a "Jade whore."

The world-building was superbly done, creating a full, complex world and divulging it at a natural pace throughout the book. All of the secondary characters were fully-fleshed out, providing bits of humor, drama, action and everything in-between when the plot required it but without feeling convenient. The action keeps a steady, energetic pace throughout the book, making it a hard book to put down at times. Brook has created a stunning steampunk setting that's creative and expansive while remaining entirely accessible. There are easily drawn parallels to our own world and the messy politics of today without anything being obvious, sanctimonious or preachy. It's complex enough a world to let you forge your own theories of what is afoot, and approachable enough that you'd want to do so.

While I loved the steampunk aspects quite a bit, the romance didn't move me. There was just something about the romance that left me kinda cold. I almost resented the breaks in the action plot and half-skimmed the sex. Their emotions towards each other felt a bit forced, so I felt like a voyeur watching them together. The sex didn't seem to be resolving a tension between them - anguish over memories of a past Frenzy notwithstanding - and so it felt gratuitous.

Part of the issue might have been that I didn't feel I really knew Rhys or Mina. I loved them as catalysts for the action - Rhys the alpha, protecting what he considers his and Mina the fighter, always trying to forge order from chaos - but didn't get a good feel for them as humans. I was told that Rhys "respected the hell out of" Mina, but I was never really shown why. What made her so special to him? What about Rhys tempted Mina? I needed to see more talking, vulnerability and emotional intimacy between them. As it was, I was told they were hot for each other, and I watched them bone, and that was the romance.

As a romance, it lacks a certain something. As a straight sci-fi, I think I'd have loved this book unreservedly. The world she's created and the secondary characters she populated it with are absolutely spellbinding. For all its faults, it was still a hard book to put down. I'm certainly itching to read the sequel a year from now.
Profile Image for Alisha.
204 reviews97 followers
October 14, 2010
Initial reaction: This book was exquisite. If I could give it 6 stars, I would. :o)

All I want to know is, what kind of peyote was this woman smoking when she dreamt up this amazing world? ^__^ It is proving exceedingly difficult for me to adequately express what it is about this book that makes me love it so. In fact, I can almost guarantee I won't be pleased with this review. ^_^ But I'll make mention of a couple thoughts in broad strokes.

...beginning with the world. Brooks' world(building) was perhaps my favorite aspect. The story begins much as I'd expect some Austenian-like historical novel to do; at a ball and amongst the polite society of England. But almost immediately, Brook starts to "pan out the frame" so to speak, revealing bits of curious descriptions until we realize that while this world is familiar, it's altered most considerably.

To call it simply "steampunk" does not do enough to capture it all, either. At one point I thought to myself that the book had a somewhat post-apocalyptic feel to it. Also that there were serious machinations about race, culture, identity and human nature. Many steampunk books can be fun and fantastical, and though this book presents such a characteristic (in great style, mind you), there's something quite grim and horrifying, as well.

I love that Brook clearly put much deep thought into the history behind the Iron Seas world; it actually plays quite considerably into the motivations of individuals and group entities. Not many books of this subgenre do so: things simply are because they are (which is not inherently a bad thing, btw). I visited Brook's website and found a short writeup on what actual historical events were altered to arrive at the universe in this book. I appreciated the consideration, and am impressed by the relevance it has in so many aspects of the story.

Now, the cast of characters. They are perhaps what brought out much of that aforementioned "fun and fantastical" nature. Every last one of the main cast displayed a beautiful range of emotions and personality. Each one did or said something that at one point made me chuckle, and at another point made me sad. In short, the supporting cast was superbly compelling.

The main couple is fantastic. I can't really put into words the extent of my adoration for Rhys and Mina, both separated and when interacting. I felt that the progression of the romance was well-paced and complemented the main storyline very well. And that's all I'll say to that end. Trust me when I say that--if you've yet to read the book--you'll want to discover both characters for yourself, and learn about their complexities in context.

Okay, as predicted I'm already fed up with my review. So I'll sum up: I found this world to be so different, so exhilarating, so chilling. I would recommend this book to just about every PnR junkie I know...especially those who can appreciate 1) some complexity in their storyline and 2) extensive worldbuilding. And zombies. ^_^

P.S. - Apparently the second book of the series will follow one of the minor characters from The Iron Duke (starts with a Y- and ends with an -asmeen) ^_^). I already have it at the very top of my 2011 to-read list. ^__^

Profile Image for Holly.
1,391 reviews926 followers
June 25, 2018
This was my very first steampunk novel and I liked it! It's a fun mixture of historical fiction and fantasy without being too distracting to the plot itself. However, for this book specifically there were so many secondary characters that I had trouble keeping them straight. But I just kind of went with it and in the end I found the story to be fun, if a bit confusing at times. I'll read more by this author and this genre in general.
Profile Image for Katie(babs).
1,803 reviews541 followers
October 1, 2010
My review of The Iron Duke won’t do enough of justice. The entire time I read, my jaw was dropped in amazement. The Iron Duke has wowed me in some many ways. Meljean Brook is an author I’m loyal to, through and through. It’s a great feeling to have started with an author since the beginning of their writing career and watch them evolve and continue to astound with every single book they’ve written. The Iron Duke is mind-blowing in such a way that it may just turn the romance genre on its ear, including the Steampunk genre that still has many readers scratching their heads in confusion because they just can’t understand it.

The plot of The Iron Duke is one of the most complex I’ve read in a long time. The last author who made my head spin in such a way was Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy. Bishop’s books have such intricate world-building, where it’s nearly impossible to explain it all. The same applies here with The Iron Duke. What I can tell you is that the world Meljean has created is a very scary and uncomfortable place, and one I wouldn’t want to live in. For the past two-hundred years, the Horde has ruled most of Europe, very much like a terrorist organization that sends fear into the hearts of many, including England. The Horde has far reaching hands, but those who were lucky enough to escape parts of Europe, mainly England, to America, are now slowly returning back to the land they left behind. The reason the British fell to the Horde was that the Horde hid things called nanogents, invisible bugs, into tea and sugar where they traded it very cheaply. Then the Horde the activated the bugs. This gave them control over the British. Can you just imagine, with a touch of a button, where someone has the power to make your body do whatever it wants? Or suppress your emotions where you don’t have the freedom to feel the way you want to? The Horde is able to do all this and so much more. And then one man rose up and went on a suicide mission to end the Horde’s slavery. Nine years ago, The Iron Duke, known as Rhys Tarhaearn, former pirate captain and recently titled Duke of Anglesey flew his ship into the Horde’s controlling tower, ending the Horde’s reign over England and becoming their national hero.

Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth knows the Iron Duke’s reputation very well. Mina’s parents are poor even with their Lord and Lady title, and their daughter is ridiculed and spit upon because Mina was conceived during a state function the Horde held where all the peers of the realm were required to attend. The Horde planned a Frenzy, forcing the guest to engage in sexual acts with anyone and anybody. Mina was the outcome and has Horde blood running through her veins. But an important fact to bear in mind is that Mina loves her parents and visa-versa. They protect and care for one another deeply.

Mina finds purpose in her job as an inspector, even though her latest investigation leads her straight to the Iron Duke’s doorsteps. A body has been dropped from an airship, and is some sort of warning against the duke. The Duke wants to handle matters himself, and away from the police, including “handling” Mina in his own special way. Mina refuses to succumb to the Iron Duke’s regard toward her, but has no choice but to let him join her on the investigation because what he wants, he gets.

Someone is building an invention, a weapon the Horde would use, if they could to take over England again. Mina has a personal stake in the case when her younger brother, who’s training aboard Rhys’s former air ship, which is used by the British Navy, has been hijacked and the crew held for ransom. Now Mina has to rescue her brother and try to save England at the same time.

Mina won’t be alone on this mission. Rhys will come with her, using not only his brains and former skill as a pirate, but along with a few trusted friends such as the Lady Yasmeen Corsair, the captain of her own airship, and Rhys’s close friend Scarsdale, a drunk who is afraid of heights, but has a man’s back during a fight. Mina has so much to lose because Rhys has targeted her for his own. He has laid claim to Mina, and the price he’s asking is too high for her to accept. Rhys is not one to take no for an answer, and soon he’s cutting away at Mina’s resolve where she wants to give into the desires The Iron Duke is offering regardless of the consequences.

Everyone so often I’ll have a call to action telling people to buy a book and drop any other book they’re reading at the moment. Here I am again with that call for The Iron Duke. There are not enough adjectives to describe what a wonderful experience I had while reading The Iron Duke. This is one book that makes me want to applaud because it’s so damn good. Meljean brings forth the steam, and I’m not just talking about the steam from the airships and machines within these pages. The things that come out of Rhys’s mouth in regards to what he wants to do to Mina, and then does to her, had me blushing. Hello? Me, your pervy KB blushing over a love scene? That takes immense skill from an author to be able to make me have such a reaction. The amount of times Rhys gives pleasure to Mina, and the way it’s describe in graphic detail, will make you melt into a pile of goo. This is one relationship that’s incredibly passionate and straight up sex on a stick. Something very important to keep in mind is that Mina is no pushover when it comes to Rhys. Poor Rhys never stood a chance with Mina. She is his salvation, and soon his reason for breathing.

There’s a combination of swashbuckling fights that brings to mind the 1935 movie, Captain Blood, ravenous, crazed zombies, and enough science fiction and fantasy to make you agog because Meljean makes it work so well together when it shouldn’t.

While reading The Iron Duke, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 1984 movie, The Terminator. There are many subtle instances of that movie within the story, mainly because of what the Horde made people become. The Iron Duke can be taken somewhat in the literal sense when it comes to Rhys, but make no mistake; he’s not a mindless machine, but very much a man who feels. If James Cameron ever got his hands on The Iron Duke, that movie would be a blockbuster of epic proportions.

If you don’t read The Iron Duke, you’re making a big mistake. The Iron Duke may be one of the most influential books published this year that I’ve read. Meljean, I applaud you, and invoke my phrase I use sparingly where, “I want to have babies” with The Iron Duke, and if I could, would roll around with it to soak up its excellence.
Profile Image for Eh?Eh!.
351 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2011
Rbrs #9

This was a shock. I kind of liked this one! It's a decently written action book and for more than half the pages it has a real plot, mostly. There are phrases that make me think "steampunk," like this nifty one: ...they ran into the street, past a long vehicle that clipped along on dozens of narrow legs like a centipede, the seats loaded with children and guarded by hard-eyed nuns armed with scimitars. I guess there isn't too much that's steampunk about that sentence, but I like it.

Meljean's world-building is scattered throughout the book, a little frustrating because I couldn't pick it up easily by skimming and had to actually read it (and many things were confusing until the background explanation caught up), but not all dumbed down. She doesn't make the mistake of trying to get too detailed with the science and screwing things up, although this also seemed to introduce holes. It's pretty convoluted...I think the gist is that over 200 years ago the leader of the Asian Horde/Mongols requested a delegation of European scientists to visit. These scientists were seized and forced to create things for war, including nanobots (yes yes, big stretch, but this is a place where she skips explanation) that were placed in sugar for years as a preliminary measure. Before the Horde invaded, these nanobots were activated and radio waves were used to control everyone who had eaten that sugar. Fast forward about 200 years, the Iron Duke was able to destroy the radio tower and the Horde was overthrown in England (another explanation skip, one that's confusing instead of maybe unnecessary, why wasn't he affected by the radio signal? different frequency, but how? did natural reproduction affect the nanobots? was he able to alter them somehow?). Nine years after that revolution, the nation is still dealing with recovery from that time, the return of those who had fled to America and their wealth (and lack of suffering), the nanobots that are still present in everyone and provide benefits but also the fear that control may be re-established, and prejudice against those with Asian features. Oh, and in nations where the Horde cleaned out the people and wanted to prevent uprisings, instead of salting the earth they salted the people with another kind of nanobot that turned them into zombies.

Aaaaaand then our story starts. Sheesh. The background was more interesting than the main couple.

The story starts out fairly simple but involving, a murder mystery that turns out to be bigger than expected. The world-building, again, fun and quite interesting. Unfortunately, just past the halfway mark, she seems to have gotten into a panic about the relatively slow development of the romance part of the story and just inserts sexytimes without much reason. They way the Iron Duke plots to get the woman? Dumb. The actual sexytimes? Egads, why is it always unwilling and then she can't keep away from him? Dumb. There are numerous side characters who are introduced as if they'll be important but then removed - they're in they're out. And then the climax. Dumb.

Blah, maybe I didn't like it, now that I think about it. The first half wasn't bad, or maybe my standards are greatly lowered when I tackle an RBRS selection (admittedly they're not what I'd select for myself, but we're reading them anyway in a group). Just thinking about the romance though, the "romance," makes me dislike it more.
Profile Image for Anzû.
550 reviews1,106 followers
May 7, 2012
Why does Germany get to have a cool cover???

@our cover: Dude! Put a shirt on!

I really have a problem with these typical shirtless dude covers. Could you get shallower than that? Buy a book just ‘cause a hot dude is on the cover. Book porn, that’s what this is…

My first thoughts when starting the book were (in this exact order):

A life without sugar!!! The horrooor!!!!

Pirates *droools*

Tahaeram or whatever wtf is that name?? I can’t even remember it! Why didn’t they call him Bob? That would be easy to remember.

Pirates of the skies so freakin’ awesome!!!


So after these *droolface* comments I was expecting the book to be something big. Well, I guess you could ignore the Bob one… but you get it. Soo much potential! *facepalm*

I’ll explain the *facepalm* in a second.

I’ll start with some simple images. How I see steampunk:

How I see steampunk in this book:

Yep! It eventually ended up into something like this. Sadly…

It started with an interesting plot. The whole bug in sugar and tea mindcontrol gig seemed really good. Great inventions and amazing places throughout the story. It had a more urban fantasy feel than a romance-whatever one. It was a great combination of action, drama and love. I was really impressed.

I don’t know why but I got the Bonnie and Clyde vibe out of this. Made me remember this great painting done by Adonihs.

Hmmm let me think… what other good stuff does it have? Oh yes! Scarsdale was a nice character. A coward, but funny. Reminded me of the brother dude from The Mummy. And don’t let me start with what they did to that awesome movie. I’d end up having a seizure.

Aaaaaand then the book got ruined.

Mina’s drama started, Traheean whatever his name is got in heat for her and all the action went to hell. Then he started getting dirty with her and she rejected him, then he insists and she gives in but is afraid to have an orgasm because she had a lesbian moment with her BFF in the past. Mindcontrol sh*t. What the f*ck??? How can you ruin such a good book like that?? Like I care about her mental issues or her damn orgies or whatever!! Stupid!

Why did the author have to create such an idiotic heroine??? Seriously, the book is awesome, it has such great elements that I LOVED (steampunk stuff, zombies, action, a half-iron-thing dude) so you can understand how I feel when I think that this could have been a perfect book for me. Now I can’t give it a high score because of the beautiful Mina. Thank you dude, you just ruined the book for me!

Before I go on with the review I have to do some Find and Replace in this book.

Stupid Mina! *angry face* again. *imitates her squeaky voice* “Oh smoking hells the big bad zombies are coming! AAAAAA!!!!”

She is the most selfish character you could find. She wants the dude’s love but she doesn’t want a relationship with him because she’ll get too much bad publicity and ruin her family. One, the dude’s a hero and you’d get good publicity. Two, wtf is this attitude? Could you be more stupid than this? The guy is offering a carte blanche and she turns it down. Three, Mina you’re an idiot. Four, I hate you Meljean Brook for creating this disastrous character that ruined another pirate book for me. Five, I need a shotgun. Pronto.

And Rhys giving up his life for a selfish ass is stupid. I wanted a strong male character and I got this in-heat-muscle-filled-iron-man dude. At first he was damn awesome and now look at him. Ugh this book makes me get violent!!

Oh yeah now she’s content after taking a bullet for him and becoming a f*cking hero. Now she’s all strong and more masculine than Rhys. I didn’t think this book would be such a huge pissing contest.

Should I bother saying that I hope the next book is better? I have a weakness for pirates and zombies dammit!!

Just a thought. If Rhys, say, trips and falls over Mina. Just by mistake... If there’s a banana peel on the floor it wouldn’t be *cough* because of *cough* me *cough* or anything. But as a concept. He trips and falls. He’s heavy like a tank. The answer to the equation is Mina dying a horrible death right? Where the hell did I put those bananas...

Top 5 quotes

#5 His gaze searched her features. Finally, he gave a short nod—as if she needed his permission to proceed. He certainly had a high opinion of himself. Unfortunately, everyone else in England shared that view.

#4 Dead people of all sorts were more tolerable than most of those living.

#3 “And inspector . . .” He strode forward and stared down at her, his gaze fierce. “You run. Because I am not taking a zombie into my bed.”

#2 “We’ve both lived many years in London, and our paths never crossed. After today, I cannot imagine we’ll meet again or have reason to be alone.”
“You’ll go wherever there are dead bodies.” He released the gate. “I can arrange for several to be found.”

#1 “Of course I wear armor. I am sitting with a pirate, a mercenary, an adventurer, and a bounder. If a shot is not fired tonight, I daresay that your reputations are nothing but lies.”

For a proper view of my "wonderful" review visit ZombieHazard.
Profile Image for Penny Watson.
Author 12 books502 followers
January 13, 2011
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

I was not prepared for this book.

My expectation for a steampunk romance was based on The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Those books are light-hearted fun, filled with kooky inventions and a no-nonsense heroine. The steampunk part of Carriger's world provides an entertaining and funky backdrop for the story. The humor is very tongue-in-cheek, right up my alley.

The Iron Duke couldn't be more different. While Carriger's world is political, it's also quite silly (the effeminate vampire friend, quirky side kick, lusty werewolf husband). Brook's post-apocalyptic world is dark, atmospheric and sinister. There is nothing remotely funny about the politics in this book. The hierarchies of her society--the bounders, the buggers, the Horde, the military--are fraught with hostility and racial discrimination. While Carriger's creative steampunk inventions elicited a smile--such as Alexia's fully outfitted parasol--the mechanics of Brook's world are straight from a horror movie. Mechanical "bugs" infiltrate the human body, and are controlled by radio frequencies enslaving the entire human population of Great Britain. Horrifying images of humans with machines as body parts reminded me of Quentin Tarantino's movie Grindhouse...remember Rose McGowan's half-machine gun leg? She would fit right into this troubling world.

Mina's very existence is the result of unspeakable acts, and the fact that everyone recognizes her as a product of Horde rape is crushing. This blatant racial discrimination also evoked images of half-white/half-Asian children left behind in Vietnam after the war. There is a lot of dark and ugly political stuff in this book....a much darker spin on the alternate industrial revolution reality of a steampunk world than Carriger's version.

Overall, the book is excellent. The story is very compelling--suspenseful, riveting. Brook is a powerful storyteller. The heroine Mina is incredible. Saddled with an unbelievably traumatic family history, she has risen above it to become a force to be reckoned with...courageous and filled with integrity. Which is most troubling to the hero Rhys, who is mercenary without shame.

Mina is the real hero of this book. She is phenomenal. The scene where she saves Rhys and his crew from a sea monster is extraordinary. Dangling upside down from a rope, she shoots a harpoon into the creature's eye and saves the ship from its evil clutches. Rock on! The climatic scene where she again saves Rhys by throwing her body in front of a bullet intended for him is heart-wrenching. How fantastic that her mother quickly whips together a mechanical heart from various body parts to save her daughter. I have to admit that I thought about the metal stent in my artery as I read this scene. It made me feel a little bit better about my "spare part" and sort of cool in a steampunky way!

The relationship between Rhys and Mina is intense. He is the rugged, swash-buckling legendary hero...fearless, but filled with moral ambiguity. Mina fears the powerful feelings he evokes inside of her, reminding her of her mindless past, dictated by the Horde. The heady lust building between them is fantastic, but I actually found their physical relationship at times distracting from the overall story. (Did I just say that? What is happening to me????) It's difficult to blend a romantic and erotic story with a political fantasy like this. I sometimes felt like the story was jumping back and forth between the lusty relationship and the plot. I also wish we had a bit more insight about Rhys' character.

A few things bothered me. One, I didn't like the threat of Mina's younger brother being sold into sexual slavery/torture (or worse) being dangled over our heads for a good portion of the book. It made me tense and worried, and ended up being a false threat when we discovered he was fine.

Also, the hero's past was difficult to reconcile with his intense sexuality. If a hero has a sexually tortured past, it needs to be be pretty strongly addressed in a romance. (JR Ward did a fabulous job with this in Lover Awakened. She clearly showed how Zsadist's relationship with Bella healed this part of his tortured psyche). I don't think that Brook adequately addressed this in The Iron Duke, even though it did occur to Mina in one of the erotic scenes.

Finally, my biggest beef was the ending. Rhys was incredibly single-minded for most of the book...he would have Mina no matter what. He was willing to go to any lengths (illegal, immoral, etc) to possess her. Then, he sends her away after learning of her public humiliation concerning their relationship, and that's it. Even after she takes a bullet for him, he doesn't visit her. He just happens to see her in the street and stops to talk to her. A totally random meeting! Get out! That sure doesn't seem in character for this guy. The wrap up at the end (they finally profess their love for each other) could have been longer. It was a bit too rushed for me. If you're writing a romance, don't skimp on the HEA, baby!

Overall, this book is astoundingly good. It has fascinating world-building, strong political symbolism, and truly memorable characters. It opened up a whole new side of steampunk fantasy that has me utterly intrigued. Although I must admit Brook's vision scares the holy hell out of me. I think I'd rather visit Carriger's steampunk world--armed with a kick ass parasol of course.

Grade: A-/B+

Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,721 reviews6,662 followers
December 30, 2015
God, I love steampunk! If you have never read steampunk before, let this one be your first!

Steampunk has such amazing components in it anyway, but Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke steps it up like 500 notches. I loved the originality and the humor. But just a heads up: It's steampunk romance...so expect a bit of bow chicka wow wow. I have only read young-adult steampunk up to this point, so I thought the addition of adult romance was a lot of fun. To date, this is my favorite steampunk novel I have ever read. The hero is sexy as hell, the heroine is kick-ass while still remaining emotionally vulnerable, and the world setup is simply fabulous...and I have to admit I did an embarrassing happy dance when I found out this is only the first of a series of novels and novellas! Check it out and get ready to enter a world both old and new, but very much its own. Enjoy!!

Note: My only notable complaint is that our hero went by three different names throughout the novel which was somewhat confusing for me at times. At any given time, he was referenced as The Iron Duke, Trahearn, or Rhys. Yes, his name is Rhys Trahearn and he is also known in this world as The Iron Duke, but it still took a minute to get used to.

My favorite quote:
“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.”

The Iron Seas series includes the following installments (as of April 2015):
#0.4-The Blushing Bounder
#0.5-Here There Be Monsters
#0.6-The Hook
#1-The Iron Duke
#1.5-Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City
#2-Heart of Steel
#3.5-Part of anthology: Enthralled
#4-The Kraken King
#4.1-The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster
#4.2-The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm
#4.3-The Kraken King and the Fox's Den
#4.4-The Kraken King and the Inevitable Abduction
#4.5-The Kraken King and the Iron Heart
#4.6-The Kraken King and the Crumbling Walls
#4.7-The Kraken King and the Empress's Eyes
#4.8-The Kraken King and the Greatest Adventure
Profile Image for Audrey.
379 reviews97 followers
August 23, 2011
This book rocks my socks.

Action. Adventure. Mystery. Humor. Romance. Sexytimes. Fiercely determined and protective hero. Smart, loyal and courageous heroine. Wonderful secondary characters. NIFTY GADGETS.

Seriously, this book has it all.

This was my first steampunk read, and I loved it for all of the wonderful things I mentioned above. I found myself at work, glancing at the clock and looking forward to getting home so I could finish this book. The first 5-10 pages kind of throw you right into the world that the author has created, and I was a little overwhelmed and confused at first. Once I caught on, though, I couldn't stop turning the pages of this wild ride of a story. While I wasn't 100% thrilled about/sold on the set up for the very last scene, the scene itself actually brought tears to my eyes. Literally.

You should read this book.

No, seriously, you should.

I'd borrowed this book from the library and was at 268 pages (out of 378) when I stopped by Borders to buy myself a copy so that I could own one and keep reading it again and again. I felt triumphant when I found the last copy on the closeout sale shelf. Seriously, if a book can make you want to spend money and feel victorious when you find a copy, it must be all that and a bag of chips.

Profile Image for Somia.
2,049 reviews121 followers
September 1, 2020
Pirates, nanotech, airships, zombies, a kraken, a lady inspector and the fierce Iron Duke , sounds like the ingredients for a fun read and it was!

I liked the fact that Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth was no simpering miss, although wish she had been a little more plucky,. The Iron Duke took a little while to warm up to, moments when he's a bit of a pushy ass and seems to have a blurry understanding of the word no, a few times his actions had me thinking yeah that is so not going to get you what you want.

At the start I did feel like the author was throwing in too much terminology without making it clear what the words meant, and I spent a while thinking what the hell is a bugger, but once it was made clear all was good.

I can see myself re-reading this.

Potential Triggers:
Profile Image for Fani *loves angst*.
1,617 reviews229 followers
December 19, 2014
I'm not writing a review for this one; I'm just going to mention a couple of things that "bugged" me:

1. This was more adventure than romance at least for the first 2/3 of the book. And despite the fact that it's focused on the suspense/action, two out of four battles against the vilains took place in no more than a paragraph. Totally anti-climatic.

2. This was my first steampunk and I think it may be my last. For the first 150 pages I got sick of reading about people with hammers instead of legs, mechanical lungs that needed extended tubes in their shoulders to work, pincers instead of hands and so on. The icing on the cake were the zombies that are described as mindless, vicious and highly infecting. Thankfully, the second part of the book on the airship was lighter and devoid of too many mental images like those.

3. The hero is described as cold and tortured in the beginning of the book. Well, I definitely didn't see it at least where the heroine was concerned. He touches her and he's immediately a goner. Puddle in her feet, lapdog in her arms. He will do anything to have her (although it's not love, he just wants to 'shag' he, but he's never felt so strongly for anyone else, et cetera et cetera). I'm sure many readers love the posessive/obsessive hero who is willing to cut his wrists and bleed himself dry so the heroine won't die of thirst, but for me this is sappy; sweet and sappy. I know however that most people love this kind of hero, so what's a minus for me is probably a plus for others.

4. I didn't particularly like the heroine or could understand all her actions and decisions. Again, this has only to do with my personal likes and dislikes rather than something particular in her behavior except for the fact that I thought she teased him and at the same time repelled him for more than was necessary.

As it's obvious, the reasons I didn't particularly enjoy it are purely personal; it was just not my cup of tea in too many areas. On the contrary, it was well written, fast paced (even though I didn't particularly like it, I was never bored) and had a couple of very interesting secondary characters. Will I go on with the rest of the series? Not likely but it's not out of the question either.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,787 reviews69k followers
January 7, 2011
When I first saw this book I thought it looked cool, but figured that it would just be another fluffyish Paranormal Romance kind of read. Whoa, was I ever wrong! I doubt that I can even do an adequate job describing this book. It was great on so many levels that I really wouldn't know where to start, so I'm not going to bother trying. I will say that the description on the back of the book did nothing to prepare me for all of the juicy awesomeness that was inside.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews520 followers
January 8, 2011
Detective Inspector investigates a murder and uncovers a treasonous plot and fucks a pirate/duke/war hero/nanotechnology superman a lot in alt history England, also zombies.

I feel somewhat betrayed. I was promised terrible books on the level of Skye O’Whatsit and that one where the hero’s name is actually Fulk, and then you hand me this. And I found it inexplicably charming! I mean, it’s a weird post catastrophe England with functioning prosthetics and airships (and apparently vibrators), and it’s all murder! plot! Africa! Random kraken! Sea battle! Orgasms!

The romance, though. It’s of that reluctant woman/determined man type, where he is absolutely and unquestioningly certain that he will have her, in whatever capacity he wants her at that moment. Vagina entitlement, you know? In his case, very literal. Which also comes with that approach to sex where penetration is the absolute end, and nothing else really counts or satisfies. Reading these sorts of romances always feels uncomfortable in the way staring down the barrel of other people’s kinks does. Particularly when it’s an outgrown kink of mine, shed when I developed a taste for relationships of equality and nontraditional power dynamics etc. And by “outgrown” I mean “since I was eleven.” This one is trying to get at the kink under a glossy wrapping of modern sensibilities (less rapiness), and I think in doing so it made the kink very uncomfortable and the modern gloss very awkward.

Still. I did like our heroine, who dealt with the postwar racial prejudice directed at her in ways that were not very deep, but believable. And she wasn’t plucky, she was competent. The hero didn’t like her because she’s different from all those other boringly submissive misses (thus condemning women for being what generations of men demanded that they be), he just likes her. I do too; I’m just confused about why she likes him. I think what I’m complaining of here is what I always complain of in romances: I realize attraction is often inexplicable, but I would like to get a sense of how these people fit together, psychologically, and how they grow into each other above and beyond the groin shorthand.

Also, I cannot believe we made it through that entire book without one single iron penis joke.
Profile Image for Maraya21 (The Reading Dragon).
1,553 reviews227 followers
June 9, 2018
💮 Another nomination of mine for the May BotM, this time for the Theme slot which was "Steampunk", over at the URR™ that actually won! Two out of two! 💮

1.5 Stars


Before you start with the "You read it wrong" & the "You clearly didn't understand it" let me be crystal clear: I understood everything. Every. Single. Thing. I just didn't like them. There were a couple of stuff I liked but those constitute 4% of the book.

Yes it crossed my mind that my intense dislike might be because I actually understood everything. I can't be a 100% sure if that's the case though.

May was not my month or anyone else's in URR™ for that matter. I NomNomed two books, both won and both were fucking awful (Second NomNom).

Oh well, moving on!

Profile Image for MISS VAIN.
200 reviews496 followers
March 4, 2012
"You may continue to call me inspector," 
"And you may call me Rhys.""I won't."
"Even when I'm in your bed?"
Mina dropped her hand to her gun.

"I agree. That was too brazen." he leaned in toward her, taking up too much space she could hardly draw. Breath. "I should have said my bed, yes?"

Who knew Steampunk, Zombies, Kraken, a feisty detective and a brazenly golden earring wearing gorgeous pirate could make for such an exciting and sexy read? Well I sure didn't! I should have never waited so long to read this book. I suddenly have a desire fantasy to seek out a brazen good hoop wearing pirate......Errrr of course what I probably would find is something most likely resembling a pimp with fake ghetto fabulous attire. 

For 200 anguishing years the Mongol Horde has controlled England through fear and nano-agents laced in their food supplies such as sugar. The Horde continued to manipulate and restrain an oppressed society using nano-agent devices to manipulate their behavior. These restricted mechanical behaviors consisted of;  manipulating emotions, suppressing anger, causing breeding frenzies leading to rape, immobility and rendering the bounders (English citizens) useless in revolt attempts against the Horde.

Not a gentlemen, but the pirate captain, His Bastard Grace, the Iron Duke. It didn't matter which. He knew exactly what he was about.

The Iron Duke begins 10 years after Rhys Trahearn a merchant captain rescued the bounders (England civilians) from the severely brutal  Horde Control when he destroyed their powerful and suppressive reign. The Control tower he demolished was a signal tower that communicated with the nano agents infecting the population controlling the helpless citizens with a click of a button. This heroic almost suicide mission and brazen act saved the population from the Horde control gaining him a heroic reputation as a force to be recogned with and the revered title of pirate hero The Iron Duke

Now free of the Horde tyranny those fortunate citizens who fled England for the New World during the Horde authority have returned to England with gold, riches and a superiority complex. This book is plagued with horribly painful prejudices towards the less fortunate citizens that have been infected with nano agents against their will and those birthed in poverty under the Horde rule.

"It doesn't matter I'd pay it for you."
Her laugh was short and hollow. Of course he would.
"At what price?"
His eyes narrowed. "Wouldn't  your brother be worth it?"
A man raised in a crèche might not understand how much Mina valued her family. And so she'd forgive him that question, just this once. But she couldn't prevent the bitterness from claiming her voice. "Yes, Your Grace he is. Which means that I would be in your service for a very long time, because Andrew's worth is a hundred times greater, than any man who uses a threat on his life to strong-arm me into bed."
Amusement touched his hard mouth. "I take my opportunities where I find them, inspector."

Meet Mina, also referred to as Detective Inspector Wilhelmina Wentworth she's a feisty and fierce loyal protagonist I've grown to admire. Her mother was rapped by the Horde during a nano agent controlled breeding frenzy, and it was painful for her mother to see the product of her rape that she gouged out her own eyes upon first viewing her Horde daughter. Her mother has since had new eyes installed by the talented Blacksmith and her mother now recovered from that emotionally painful experience is now an advocate for bounder citizen equality as well as making lives more productive for women.  Sadly she's been afflicted with the nano agent buggers her Horde physical features are visible and it's obvious to everyone around her that she has Horde blood in her veins resembling the Horde. This has caused her traumatic grief her entire life. She has to work and excel in her work duties just to be treated as almost an equal. It's so sad because she's a good person, loyal, honest, feisty, fearless and people treat her with disgust and actually physically cause hem to her just because she was an unfortunate product of rape by the Horde. 

Luckily she has an amazingly tender and honorable protector in her inspector partner Constable Newberry. He's a happily married loyal co-worker that has a devoted friendship with Mina, and he plays the role of her personal bodyguard protecting her from bigots and other other hostile victimizers lurking in the dark for unsuspecting Mina. I look forward to reading more about Constable Newberry in future installments.
In the beginning Mina has been given the task of investigating a murder victim that has been literally been dropped off on the doorstep lavish estate of Rhys Trahearn, The Iron Duke. Together they begin investigating this murder, and from then begins the exciting thrill ride. The Iron Duke sets his goal on possessing Mina as his own in bed or in work, until he discovers that not only is she slipping into his fantasies frequently she's also taking up a spot in his heart, and he discovers he wants to save the same spot for himself in her heart.

I'll start of by saying I simply loved this book. When I wasn't reading I was thinking about The Iron Duke the murder investigation. The Iron Duke is everything I desire in a hero. He's brooding, arrogant, powerful, rich, masculine, cold and detached, yet tender when he chooses,  and with an insatiable appetite for "shagging" the only object of his desires. With his take charge, and ask for question later attitude this Pirate Hero is a force to reckoned with. There were times in this story I felt the steam and desired a fan to cool myself off because it was as if I were a voyeur on these sizzling excursions. 

"But don't be mistaken, Mina. I don't crusade on principles. I just protect whats mine. They were on the Terror, so they're mine. And when I found Andrew, I wanted your gratitude."

Soon Mina and Rhys find themselves on a race against time to rescue his pirate cargo ship the Terror from evildoers especially because he feels it's his duty to protect his employees and Mina's brother happens to be one of them on that ship. So bound by his honorable captain duty to save his ship as well as his men aboard, he also seeks to save Mina's brother Andrew out of employer duty as well as a Hail Mary attempt to capture her approval and perhaps her heart.

Other characters worthy of mentioning In The Iron Duke were Yasmeen also known as Lady Cosair, Archimedes Fox, and Scarsdale. Lady Cosair is a hilarious addition to this story due to her brazen and cold and calculating personality. She comes across as a tough as nails brutal character that you do not want to go up against because she can hold her own. I sense that she actually  behaves in this manner as a coping mechanism in order to protect herself from either future pain or pain from her past. I know we will discover her entire story in the next novel The Iron Seas because she and Archimedes Fox are the main focus of the next novel. The Iron Duke's best friend Scarsdale is a drunken hot mess, and his behavior just brightens up the entire story, I'm really hoping his book will be sooner rather than later.

I absolutely loved this story. The Iron Duke has everything I adore; a feisty courageous heroine, a gorgeous sexual tyrant hero, fighting, zombies, steampunk, kraken, imaginatively creative  world building, steamy passionate scenes, loyalty, family values, friendship and most favorable of all honor.

Holding her still as he inhalled, as if drawing in her scent. He lifted his head, but didn't release her. His thumb brushed her bottom lip. "You will accept me. And now I will know you, even if you come to me in the dark." 
Know her? Arrogant, insufferable knacker. Her hand shot to the front of his breeches, making claws of her fingers, and trapping his genitals in a tight grip. "And even in the dark, now I'll know that I'm ripping off the right cods."

Like what you see find more of my reviews at: http://MissVainsParanormalFantasy.com

Profile Image for Ursula.
584 reviews137 followers
June 13, 2018
A thrilling 4.5 stars.
I was not sure how I would go with this one. Just a heads-up: there was a scene that might be termed dub-con, and I normally run screaming from these scenes, but it somehow worked for me. It may not work for everyone.
Some terrific world-building by the author and I was completely riveted so that I could not put the book down, especially the last quarter or so. Kick-arse action all the way!
It all takes place in a steam punk world where a nation simply called the Horde conquered England but has now been defeated and kicked out. Complex ideas of nanotech and mech tech (combined with airships and some zombies, even) make for some intense focus in order to understand it all, but it was worth it.

The two MCs are great- Mina is the police inspector and of mixed race, Rhys is an adventurer and pirate/merchant turned duke (Hereditary titles were reclaimed after the enemy was vanquished.) She is intelligent, tough and fiercely independent. He is commanding and forceful, but truly wishes only to make her happy. He is incredibly selfless in this regard. Both are damaged and traumatised in their own way.
The failure to communicate their feelings became a tad annoying towards the end but it was a lovely, emotional finish.

Not sure if I will read on, as the next books don't sound so great to me - not my type of heroes/heroines (I am a bit traditional, I admit!)- but so glad I read this one!

Just heard the audio (March 2018): fabulous! This book is such a great story, the world-building wonderful. The MCs are difficult characters, so they had to work hard for their HEA. Loved the audio book, really brought it to life. I now understand why you might want to become a sailor on a tall ship. The scenes involving the navy totally gripped me when listening, and I saw everything in my mind's eye. I really do love this book. And I love the duke- what a guy. And Mina- her family, everything. I probably should make it 5 stars!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jo.
957 reviews200 followers
January 18, 2023

Just as amazing as the first time I read it.

Absolutely brilliant!

I had no idea that steampunk was such a wonderful genre. The world created in this book was amazing! There’s the nanoagents, which are bugs that the Horde hid in tea and sugar, which almost everyone in England ingested, and by which the Horde controlled everyone until the Iron Duke freed them from the Horde. You have people with mechanical body parts, then there’s the ratcatchers, which are modified alley cats, their bones replaced with steel. And the zombies. I have not yet read a book with zombies, and I thoroughly enjoyed them in this novel. I love Meljean Brook’s writing. She described this world so perfectly that I could imagine everything in detail.

Mina is a detective inspector, and because of the way she was conceived she is treated like dirt by the population. However, she doesn’t let this get her down, and continues to be a great detective. I really liked Mina, and I loved her attitude and how she didn’t let anyone walk over her.

Then there is Rhys, the Iron Duke. Oh, how I loved him. I loved how he was with Mina, how instantly fascinated he was with her, and how attracted he was to her.

He’d never needed anything as much as he needed her. Self-preservation warned him to push her away. He couldn’t stand the thought of it, only wanted to bring her in closer. But if she didn’t come to need him in return, then away or close, it wouldn’t matter—either one would destroy him.

The chemistry between Mina and Rhys was absolutely wonderful. Their relationship was slow building, because of Mina’s past experience under the control of the Horde she was very afraid of her feelings towards Rhys. I loved how Rhys pursued Mina, and he never gave up, no matter how hard she tried to push him away. Both were so good at hiding their true feelings for one other, showing indifference when the exact opposite was true.

This book was absolutely wonderful, and I can’t wait to continue with this series. I will definitely be reading many more steampunk books!

Profile Image for willaful.
1,155 reviews371 followers
October 21, 2011
I enjoyed this a lot, yet I still don’t feel like I really get steampunk. The worldbuilding seems largely based on “this is wicked cool and/or scary” rather than on a logical chain of events. I never did get how, in this obviously very sexist world, women get to be on the police force.

The book’s biggest strength is its heroine. Mina is brave, determined, caring, yet also vulnerable -- everything you would want in a cop, or a heroine. I found myself just a bit disappointed in Rhys, a fairly standard romance hero. Not that that’s a bad thing -- I love romance, obviously I love romance heroes. I guess I was just expecting someone a little more out of the ordinary. The best thing about him was his horror at realizing he had misunderstood Mina's sexual signals, in a a very powerful scene. (I did not read him as a rapist at all, by the way, as quite a few readers have.)

The backstory of the characters was fascinating but I found myself yearning to know more about how people who were quite tortured wound up with such sane, healthy relationships. Again, not quite sure how we got from A to Z.

And a last complaint... if I never see the word “shagged” again, it will be too soon.

But -- awesome adventure, fascinating characters, intriguing world (even if I didn’t really get it) and some angsty romance.

Good stuff.

10/21 I've been skimming the book prior to reading the next in the series, and have decided to upgrade my rating it to 4 1/2 stars.
Profile Image for Deja Dei.
125 reviews24 followers
August 28, 2011
Couldn't finish it. I threw in the towel when the protagonist raped the heroine and acted like he was doing her a favor. Authors need to find a way to get their characters together in historical setting where women are sexually restricted other than rape. Its lazy and distasteful to use the tired "she had no choice so she might as well enjoy it." Wonder why I'm the only one offended by this kind of thing?

Too bad. It had a lot of potential. The "hero" was just too unappealing for me.
Profile Image for Katyana.
1,429 reviews177 followers
October 15, 2010
Wow wow wow! I reallllllllly loved this book.

Mina was amazing. Strong, brave, loyal, and amazingly good-spirited, given everything she had to deal with. And Rhys... I really loved him. It is hard to find the words. A reluctant hero, a guy who pulled himself up out of the horrible life he had as a child, but yet still managed to be a good man.

Both of these characters are people who don't handle emotions well. I don't want to get into the reasons why (except to assure you all that it is well done and believable), because the way the author feeds the reveals and the backstories is just too artfully done; I refuse to spoil anything. But watching these two discover this tremendous affection for each other is honestly beautiful. At times it is heartbreaking.

And the plot itself is well constructed. The world is a wonderful one to romp in, and the Black Guard arc is fabulous.

Let's talk for a moment about steampunk.

I love the gadgetry of it. I love the look of it. But in books, though I enjoy the hell out of it, I generally find it to be pretty clunky. Don't get me wrong, I have read some fabulous steampunk books. But personally, I have a very visual imagination. So when I am reading steampunk books, the reading itself is very stop/start - I am always pausing to puzzle out how something would look, or work, or sound. All the description the author puts in, with these amazingly cool gadgets, generally has to coalesce in my head and form a picture.

I can't tell you why this wasn't the case for this book, but it wasn't. For whatever reason, the images "on screen" in my head just flowed like water. It wasn't stop/start at all. The author really did a tremendous job with it in this book. All the fun of steampunk, without the clunky bits on the page.

If I were to offer ANY criticism at all, I would just briefly whine that we didn't get another chapter or so at the end of the book. The resolution between Mina and Rhys happened LITERALLY in the last 3 pages, and there was just not enough time (for me) to revel in the joy as they finally understood each other. But did that diminish my enjoyment of the book? Not at all.

This book was really fantastic, and overall I am just terribly excited for this entire series. I can't wait to see where it goes next!
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