The Iron Seas Series by Meljean Brook
Published between 2010-2014
The steampunk genre is a genre I haven’t fully had the chance to delve into; however, I have had a few opportunities to read from this genre such as the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger and so far it is fabulous. The only difference is that the series by Gail Carriger isn’t as steampunk as the Iron Seas is. It is a good getting-your-feet-wet type of book that is a typical historical fiction with a dash of steampunk in it. Unlike that series, the Iron Seas is straight up steampunk and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Personally, I found the first and last book the best out of the series.
The Iron Duke is spectacular. The writing is very eloquent with details hidden here and there so you’re forced to read every single word to fully understand the Iron Seas world. (This was especially difficult for me because I’m the type of reader who sporadically skims over tiny details so I was forced to go back and reread certain sections). Regardless, this book was wonderfully written where man and machine cannot live without the other – at least that is how it is in Europe. The third and fourth book will expand to other parts of the world so you’ll be able to fully comprehend how this world operates in different areas. The main characters in the first book, Rhys and Mina, were beautifully crafted. Rhys with his extremely maleness and Mina with her unforgettable personality make a great romance between the two. Granted, the romance was a little cliché with the typical alpha male meets cold heroine. However, I still enjoyed reading about the two. Plus, the adventure and mystery gave the romance a kick.
Heart of Steel, book 2 of this steampunk series, was somewhat of a disappointment. The only reason why I still enjoyed this book was because of the characters – Archimedes Fox and Yasmeen, Captain Corsair. Archimedes Fox is cunning and clever with a sly silver tongue. He knows how to get himself out of situations and sweet talk anyone into anything except for Yasmeen which is why they’re such a perfect match. They’re both very strong characters (though, Archimedes was somewhat lacking compared to Yasmeen – something I noticed about Meljean’s writing is that her female characters are stunning with the male characters a few steps behind, not sure why exactly) and it takes them some time for them to find their balance and become a great couple. The rest of the story, the plotline, the writing was all meh for me. Plus, this book was short! At least compared to the first and last book. I was all ready to burrow myself in a nice thick novel but alas, that was not the case.
The third book, Riveted, was by far the worst book out of the series plus it was the most random. The previous book used characters you were already familiar with because both Archimedes Fox and Yasmeen played a role in the first book and the last book has Zenobia Fox, Archimedes Fox’s sister and she mentioned in earlier novels as well; however, in this book, the characters were completely new with a completely new setting – Iceland. However, despite that, the romance between Annika and David were probably the most realistic because they both had their reservations – David with his prosthetic legs and arms and his mechanical eye and Annika with her limited knowledge of men and her absolute need to keep her origins a secret – and their hesitations about each other made it more genuine. Unfortunately, even with their realistic romance, the story plotline and the writing did not do it for me. The other positive aspect of this book is that you realize that not everyone needs to live with machine – Annika, for example, is not infected with nanoagents nor does she have any prosthetic limbs. So it is in this novel that you realize that not everyone in the Iron Seas world live off of machines but it does continue to play a huge part.
Now, the last book, The Kraken King follows the story of Zenobia Fox and the Kraken King, Ariq, also the governor of Krakentown. I believe there were 8 parts in this book (I didn’t actually count) so if you’re interested in just simply testing the waters, feel free to simply read the first part. I really enjoyed this book – definitely my second favorite after the Iron Duke. There were a lot of world building in this book similar to the first book but here, the world building is focused on Asia particularly Japan (Nippon as Meljean calls it, which is actually the Japanese word for Japan). I enjoyed how she crafted Nippon so similar to Japan yet so completely different. There were tiny details that so closely resembled Japan as I know it yet at the same time, still completely part of the Iron Seas world. I loved that. The characters were also wonderful – they grew a lot throughout the novel which made them more believable as you get to see how they changed. This is probably the one book where both male and female characters were actually on the same level so kudos to Meljean. The story plotline in this novel was also spectacular – tons of actions with little downtime and oodles of romantic words and angst between Zenobia and Ariq.
Overall, the Iron Seas series was fabulous – the characters and story plots were wonderful and even though I did not find book two and three particularly amazing, the first and last book more than made up for it. I highly recommend this series to anyone who either loves steampunk or wants to give steampunk a try.