by Meljean Brook
Series: The Iron Seas #1
Pub. Date: Nov. 1, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Narrator: Faye Adele
Length: 13 hrs 23 min
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.
This is my first foray into what I consider "heavy" steampunk. I read the Gail Carriger books a few years ago, but I don't remember them being as immersed in steam technology as this series. I stopped and watched the VF book club discussion for this book about half way through, which helped me understand a little more about the steampunk world because I was sorely lacking.
For those who are new to the steampunk world like me, in this story, Buggers are people who have been infected with nano agents, and Bounders are those who escaped England and Horde rule w/o being infected. The nano agents allowed Buggers to be controlled by the Horde using radio frequencies. Buggers maintained control of their mind, but the Horde took control of their bodies.
Mina Wentworth is the daughter of an Earl, but a product of a Horde frenzy. (The Horde caused frenzies which would make buggers rut with anyone and everyone who was nearby when the frenzy started.) Mina's mother was so distraught when Mina was born, that she gouged her own eyes out. I can't imagine having to grow up with this stigma but, oddly enough, Mina had a loving family. I didn't quite understand it... but the eye gouging was about the mother's shame more than the sight of her daughter bearing Horde characteristics. Mina has worked hard to prove herself, becoming a detective inspector with Scotland Yard. I had to admire the strength of character it took for her to protect and serve a society that would spit at her and call her dirty names rather than appreciate her good deeds, no matter how heroic they might have been.
Rhys Trahearn, the Iron Duke, was an interesting hero. I mean hero in the literal sense, as he freed London from Horde rule by blowing up the Horde's tower. I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out while he was called the Iron Duke. He was definitely the strong, silent and authoritative type. He didn't give a squat about diplomacy or societal rules, so he left that all to his friend Scarsdale. He also didn't give a fig about what others thought, but as a hero beloved by the people, he was somewhat above reproach. This put him somewhat out of touch with reality, particularly when considering Mina's life and situation.
The romance between our H/h was slow-building. Rhys would have liked things to start off with a bang, but Mina had problems with intimacy and didn't want to get involved. As the pair spend more time in each other's company, things follow their natural course and it worked out well. I enjoyed both the story, the action plot, and the romance. The characters were all interesting in their own right and provided a bit of diversity for the story. I liked that they all had strong personalities without being overbearing.
While I enjoyed the story, I still don't quite understand the world. Who is the Horde? What do they look like? What are these Horde characteristics the everyone sees when they look at our heroine? Based on discussions with my book bestie, Deanna, we are thinking this is somehow relating to the Mongol Empire and Mongolian features? This is solely a hindsight observation after reading other reviews... I was never quite sure as I was reading. I was thinking the Horde had to be some kind of supernatural sect or something. Also, how do nano agents make you grow iron bones? Why did the Horde cause a frenzy and, if they needed them for breeding purposes, why didn't they happen more often? So I still have a lot of questions and feel like I need a little guide to this world that Meljean has created. Maybe I can pick her brain at the RT Convention next month. ;)
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