Sunday, 8 April 2012

Review | The Iron Duke - Meljean Brook

Steampunk with (yes, you guessed it from the cover) a primarily romantic bent, The Iron Duke was a mixed read for me. You probably know that I'm not a huge fan of romance - romantic subplots, yes, but when it's romance with a little fantasy added rather than the reverse... Not so much. As a result, The Iron Duke had elements which I enjoyed, but as a whole just wasn't my kind of novel, and readers of romance will likely get more from it. Readers of Drying Ink will know this isn't something I can say often - I read everything from historical fantasy to far-future hard SF, and this is my one exception.

When picking up The Iron Duke, keep two things in mind. The first is that the primary focus of the novel is romance - and as such, a major action sequence might get a page or two, and a liason seven. The second is that despite this, The Iron Duke does have a plot and a world - an interesting one. An alternative, steampunk Europe, in which Britain has recently been freed from the control of the Horde by the eponymous Iron Duke, Trahaern. Europe is infested with zombies, and the formerly-inslaved British are infected with nanobots, rendering them able to survive - as well as stronger, able to have grafted tools onto their bodies, and generally better slaves to the Horde.

But what of the plot? It begins as a murder investigation, when a frozen corpse is dropped onto the doorstep of the Iron Duke - and Mina, an Inspector, is called to investigate. Soon it becomes apparent that there's a deep-reaching conspiracy at hand - secret, anti nanobot societies within Britain itself, pirates, and old enemies of the Iron Duke are all thrust into the mix. And naturally, the Iron Duke himself is an asset to Mina's investigation... Which, naturally, is where the romance comes in. The plot in itself is engaging, if somewhat thrust out of the spotlight; indeed, the world and story would make for a fun story by any measure. Along, of course, with the usual dose of surprising revelations and twists (and pirates. Who doesn't like pirates with airships?)

So I can certainly applaud these aspects. However, for me, the romantic focus was less a relationship between two characters and more the sexualised romance of a romance novel - not necessarily bad, but not my sort of thing. Rhys begins with pretty much the express goal of bedding Mina, and honestly, it's more than a little graphic at times (and as a primary goal, made me a little uncomfortable - although at least Mina is, for the most part, an individual character rather than a mushy pushover). If you're fine with that as the focus, and are accustomed to the genre's conventions, The Iron Duke is likely your sort of thing, mixing in (as it does) an original world and engaging plot, though given shorter thrift by the dominant romantic aspect. For me, it was a little too much.

So I'm unable to judge this beyond a certain extent!

Find it here: UK US

5 comments:

  1. Agreed about the romance! But I thought the writing was good and the world fascinating, so I did enjoy this one. Definitely more of a romance with a steampunk setting than a steampunk with romance, though.

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    1. Glad you felt the same way! Similarly, there were large aspects that I did enjoy, but the problem was that for the main sequence, those aspects were pushed to the side - as in a page of the final battle... then six of kissing. :P So yes, I totally agree.

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  2. You're much braver than me, I couldn't get far past the cover of this one! I had a crack at the first 20 pages or so and then buried it under a pile of hardcore fantasy novels until I felt better.

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    1. Nay, 'twas not bravery but my iron-hardened suit of cynicism. :P Haha, anyway - putting asie the faux-medieval language - the romantic focus really wasn't my kind of thing either, so you're justified!

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