I just finished this steampunk tale from Meljean Brook called The Iron Duke. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Steamships and airships and nanobots, oh my. It was incredibly original, which is always refreshing. I’m not sure if I came into the middle of a story arc or not, but even if I did, I didn’t really have any trouble following the story.
Some two hundred years ago, the Mongol Horde took over Europe and England with the help of advanced steampunk-y technology, including the use of nanobots. These nanobots were hidden inside tea and sugar shipments to England, and therefore ingested by any red-blooded Englishman. The Horde could then control those who were infected through the use of radio signals from a tower they built along the Thames after successfully invading Britain.
Their long and terrible rule was brought down by one man, Rhys Trahaearn, and his pirate ship Marco’s Terror (a reference to Italian explorer Marco Polo). The people of England are now getting used to their emotional and physical freedom and bestowed the title of Duke of Anglesey to Trahaearn. He even got to build his own estate along the Thames.
The Iron Duke starts out with a body being tossed onto his estate and him meeting Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth, a half-English/half-Horde peeress. They have to track down who the body used to be, why it was tossed on to his estate and why. It leads them into a dangerous world of treason and high seas adventure and sexual tension. A lot of sexual tension. And then a lot of sex.
I don’t mind sex in novels, especially not if it’s well written. But I do think there was a bit too much in this novel. Basically, Wentworth and Trahaearn end up shagging quite a bit simply because there’s nothing else to do on their airship while they’re in between the action. Really? Can’t come with anything else to fill up the time? Like chatting up the airship captain, revealing more of Trahaearn’s ‘mysterious past’ or perhaps why the emotionally fragile Mina Wentworth suddenly decided she wasn’t afraid of a good shag? No? Okay then, we’ll just let you make with the sex then.
That being said, the mystery itself was fairly good. I can usually figure things out well in advance, but I didn’t this time around, which I always enjoy. And the action was also quite good. I really enjoyed Brook’s ingenuity on the steampunk gadgets. Genetically altered sharks and kraken that patrol the waters and attack anything with a steam engine; zombies are nanobot infected people whose nanobots went bad and people can get more than just hook attachments for their arms and legs.
All in all, a refreshingly original book. I recommend it and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. B+