The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1) by Meljean Brook
I was really excited to read The Iron Duke after reading its companion novella Here There Be Monsters in Burning Up, an anthology also featuring one of my favourite authors, Nalini Singh, and characters from her Psy~Changeling series. In Here There Be Monsters, we’re introduced to Meljean Brook‘s steampunk romance world, set in an alternate-history England — an England that has just thrown off 200 years of the Horde’s tyranny (yeah, Genghis Khan’s descendants), the invading force that took over by sneaking nanotechnology, or bugs, into imported sugar and tea, and then using the bugs to control the population, until the Iron Duke destroyed the radio tower controlling the bugs, setting the population free. (You can read more about the history of the Iron Seas-verse here.)
Needless to say, Rhys Trahaearn, a.k.a. the Iron Duke, is a popular and powerful dude in England, which makes our heroine, Mina Wentworth, leery when she’s called to investigate a dead body on his property at the start of The Iron Duke. Discovering who died and how sends Mina and Rhys on a quest to save England from a conspiracy that takes them around the zombie-infested world. At the same time, Rhys is pursuing Mina fairly ruthlessly and Mina is doing her best to dodge, so there are some romantic pitfalls along the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Iron Duke. It was a great adventure but there were also some serious issues in the book, such as racism, class systems, and women’s rights. The Iron Duke is a wonderful immersion in a truly unique setting and I can’t wait to read more. The world building is so rich and detailed and it made me feel like I was there.
I didn’t take the time to review Here There Be Monsters so I will say a couple words about it here: It’s awesome. In some ways, I enjoyed it more than The Iron Duke, mostly because I adored Mad Machen and Ivy and their developing relationship. In contrast, Rhys wasn’t as well-developed and was a bit remote and harsh. Similarly, Ivy is so feisty and fierce while Mina spent a lot of time dwelling on her bi-racial background and the racism she faces.