The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook is a thrilling book that really embraces the new steampunk genre, set in an alternate version of England that is recovering from the rule of the Horde.
The Horde appears to have been an organization that ruled England through the use of nanoagents that were snuck into the food supplies and ingested by the population. These nanoagents are bugs that can be controlled by radio frequencies, allowing the Horde to control the actions of the population. However, the reign of the Horde was ended by the Iron Duke when he blew up their centre of operations, giving him a revered status amongst the English people.
After the reign of the Horde people started returning to England to stake a claim over those infected, believing that they were of a higher class, meaning that there is still tension throughout the country. There are those who wish to wipe out infected individuals, as well as the other Horde-related monstrosities that plague the world, such as zombies and kraken.
Detective inspector Mina Wentworth suffers prejudice for being born under the Horde, despite being the daughter of an Earl. However, her family is not as rich as other nobility and struggle to get by, making Mina want to work especially hard to support them. She is very ambitious in her work and is determined to succeed, but she becomes conflicted when her path crosses with the Iron Duke.
She is called to his home to investigate the murder of a man who has been unceremoniously dropped onto Rhys’ garden, and she is uncertain what to expect from the notoriously private man. It is unheard of for the police to be called, as he normally sorts his own problems, but he is enthralled with Mina from the moment they meet. He wants to claim her for his own, primarily in the bedroom, but she has other ideas, focusing purely on the investigation.
As the murder occurred on his property, the Iron Duke is determined to see the investigation through to the end, much to the annoyance of Mina, as he accompanies her wherever the investigation leads. It soon becomes clear that this murder is linked to a much larger plot, with the trail leading them to undertake journeys on airships and to seek out the Duke’s favoured ship, Marco’s Terror.
Mina was a great heroine to read, as she was independent, strong and knew exactly what she wanted. She was also fiercely protective of her family, going to any lengths to protect them and their emotions. I loved how she stands her ground against the Iron Duke, not immediately caving in to his will no matter how difficult he makes things for her.
However, I did have mixed feelings about Rhys throughout the book, as he was incredibly crude at times, only seeming to care about getting Mina into his bed. I didn’t like how he forced himself on her, but did like how his character underwent a transformation by the end of the book. I also loved how passionate he was about his old crew from his ship, and how determined he was to protect everyone that he cared about.
She turned to find a man as big as his voice. Oh, damn the newssheets. They hadn’t been kind to him – they’d been kind to their readers, protecting them from the effect of this man.
Overall, I loved how the plot made use of several different genres, with the mystery being intertwined with the almost-sci-fi elements of the Horde rule as well as the romance plotline. I did feel that there could have been a little more description of the Horde and what the past was like for the characters, as well as a little more background on Rhys and Mina, but I did enjoy their story. I felt that the author created a unique universe of London, and I’d really like to see how this series continues.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started The Iron Duke, but I really enjoyed the murder investigation, and the development of the relationship between Rhys and Mina. I did feel that more could have been explained about the Horde, and I wasn’t completely sure how I felt about Rhys as a love interest for Mina, but this was still a good read and I would recommend it.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- The Iron Duke
- Heart of Steel
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