Warning: contains spoilers for the first book in series
Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City by Meljean Brook follows on from The Iron Duke, with Rhys and Mina living in relative marital bliss in the changed society of London.
The novella opens with detective inspector Mina Wentworth returning from a police investigation and determined to hide her newly acquired injuries from Rhys. Since their marriage he has become even more protective of her, fearful for her safety whenever she leaves the house and yet to understand the extent of his love for her. In a way this novella is very much about how the couple learn to live with each other in a domestic environment rather than in the confined space of the airship from book one.
Before long Mina is called to the murder of Viscount Redditch, an influential noble who was trying to prevent the introduction of automatons to British factories. He was trying to protect the jobs of the workers, particularly those of the children, but his controversial opinions could be behind his murder. The case is given further depth by the added detail that he had dined with Mina and Rhys a few nights before, prompting Mina to question whether Rhys could be the next victim for sharing in these views.
At the crime scene she discovers that at the time of the murder a brass wheel contraption was seen making a hasty departure. With the help of constable Newberry, whom we met in book one, Mina goes in pursuit of this strange mechanism, believing that if she finds the wheel she will discover what really happened. This introduces one of the many steampunk aspects of the universe, along with the two-seater balloon used by Mina throughout the novella.
Elsewhere there were further family dramas with Mina and Rhys’ adoptive daughter, Anne. She mysteriously doesn’t wish to stay with them anymore, prompting parental concerns for her welfare, but also a conflict of worrying how much authority they can exert when she is not really their child. However, this problem is resolved fairly quickly, and Anne’s information becomes vital to solving the case.
She leads them to the ‘Invisible City’ of children throughout London, children from the crèches set up during the Horde reign that protect and look out for their own. They would be unwilling to cooperate with the detective inspector or the Iron Duke, but would willingly give up their information to Anne, with her being a child of the crèche herself. It is this hidden network that becomes crucial to revealing certain leads and sinister new technologies at work in London.
Rhys is not merely a bystander in all of this; he delves right into the investigation and is seen at Mina’s side whenever she needs him. He doesn’t try to control Mina, but at the same time his overprotective nature was annoying and it didn’t feel like she had complete freedom to act as she wanted to. Whenever Mina was injured he felt compelled to check over every inch of her body for the slightest scrape, followed by some steamy sex scenes to reaffirm his love for her.
Despite his worry for her, Mina still has doubts as to his true feelings, as the Iron Duke has never had a proper relationship before. As he didn’t know his mother and father either it means he doesn’t really know what it is to care for another person, or how to express his emotions. She worries that maybe he was more interested in the chase, as she didn’t give herself up easily to him and he was used to always getting whatever he desired.
He loved her. She knew that. But maybe he didn’t love her more than he had eight months ago. He’d asked her to fight with him…but maybe he was fighting to stay excited, fighting to keep his desire for her alive.
I enjoyed how Mina and Rhys manage to work together to solve it, but at the same time they demonstrate their individual personalities and it is clear to see why they fit so well together. Both characters are as headstrong as each other, but also share a devotion to each other that allows for compromises. This novella thus forms a suitable epilogue to The Iron Duke, allowing us to see what typical life is like for Mina and Rhys after their marriage. It is very much their version of a happy-ever-after, as Mina would be lost without her police work and Rhys would not suit a quiet domestic lifestyle.
As for the other recurring characters, it was interesting to learn more about Newberry’s life and his marriage, particularly as we are given back story on his wife. Then there is the character of Scarsdale, who is worried about being discovered as gay and so seeks to marry to discourage any rumours. Interestingly, Scarsdale’s story is left hanging in this novella, which I would like to see developed in a future adventure. Their tales are of little consequence to the murder, but it gave further depth to Meljean Brook’s intricate character universe.
However, despite enjoying these side stories of the novella, I felt that more time could have been spent on the actual plotline of the investigation, as there is very little plot exploration. The case is fairly straightforward with no real twists, and I didn’t feel that it had been expanded as much as it could have been. For example, despite learning the ‘how’ of the murder we rely on other characters to tell us the ‘why’ rather than the murderer himself. It was small details like this that would have increased my enjoyment of the novella, but the Iron Seas series is still missing a certain spark to keep me hooked. Perhaps it was the dominating nature of Rhys that didn’t quite work for me, but the series is missing that special something that makes a good book into a great one.
For a novella I quite enjoyed this instalment to the Iron Seas series, although I did feel that it suffered from the same issues I’d found within The Iron Duke. The mystery didn’t feel like it had the time to develop as much as it could have, and I maintained my dislike of the characters, especially Rhys’ tendencies to be very highly overprotective.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- The Iron Duke
- Heart of Steel
- The Kraken King
#0.5 Here There Be Monsters
#1.5 Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City
BUY YOUR COPY