Friday, March 11, 2011

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

What You Need to Know:  This fast paced, complex romance combines top-notch world building and genre elements for a compelling read. 

Summary:  England is free of Horde rule.  The Eastern invaders were defeated when Rhys Trahaearn destroyed the technology used to communicate with the nanotech present in every Brit.  Now a national hero, the Iron Duke has used his fame and position to create a merchant empire.   Years after the Horde have left Britain,  the Buggers (those with the nanotechnology) and the Bounders (those Englishmen who fled to the new world before the Horde) live in an uneasy mix of cultures.   Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth sees this from her position as an officer of the law and an outsider with Horde blood.  When a dead body shows up on Trahaearn's front lawn, the former pirate becomes obsessed with the Detective.  But Mina knows that she cannot allow the Duke to claim her, no matter how much she might wish to.   

What Worked:  This book has one of the most original premises I have ever seen.  Steampunk nanotech -- simply awesome.  The way that Brook creates her universe, explaining in some places, letting the reader wonder in others,  is masterful.  Brook also has a deft hand with her characters.  Mina is intelligent, beautiful and brave -- but not perfect.  She is believable, and it is easy to see why Rhys wants her so badly.  Rhys is equally well drawn, and shows a great deal of growth throughout the book.   

What is most impressive to me is the way that Brook juggles her genre elements.  This is a romance book, and a sexy one at that, with all of the thrusting and heaving that is common in the genre.  It's also an adventure, and a mystery and a science fiction novel.   Grafting these varied components together is a feat in itself, doing it as seamlessly as this is nearly miraculous.  

What Didn't:  The final quarter of this book felt a tad expected, with some Deux ex machina (literally!) moments.  Also, some characters' roles could have been reduced or eliminated altogether.  

However:  I suspect that the ending is required by the strictures of the romance genre.  And since a sequel is already planned, I imagine those extra characters are there for a reason. 

Who would I give this book to?  My mom.  Seriously, she loves her some paranormal romance.  This is most definitely an adult book, so teens are out, but I can see many an adult PNR fan embracing this book. 

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