Guest blogger Pamala Knight lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons where she’s quickly running out of space to hide all the books she owns. Please send help or an Amazon gift card. Whichever. Talk Pamala down from her book obsession on twitter or Facebook.
Anyone a fan of the old television series The Wild, Wild West or the Will Smith/Kevin Kline movie adaptation? Did anyone else know we were watching Steampunk long before director Guy Ritchie made Sherlock Holmes an icon of the genre? I grew up watching Treasury/Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) on the Saturday night METV rotation. All those fabulous and over the top villains with their menacing mechanical devices, foiled by the talent of the duo along with West’s brawn and Gordon’s ingenious disguises. I’ve always loved Steampunk, even back when I didn’t know what to call it.
Detective Inspector Lady Wilhelmina Wentworth (Mina) is the heroine in Meljean Brook’s excellent first book in her Iron Seas series, THE IRON DUKE, and is in a three-way tie for my favorite steampunk heroine (along with Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarraboti from the Parasol Protectorate and Zoe Archer’s Thalia Burgess from the Blades of the Rose series). Mina is a complex character—vulnerable yet strong, intelligent but also naïve and totally uncomfortable being Lady Wilhelmina. That’s Inspector to you, if you please.
She cares for her loved ones but has a hard time accepting that others want to care for her. Her loving parents, the Earl and Countess of Rockingham, are another departure from the usual peerage suspects. The Earl is a doctor, ministering to the poor and the Countess is a skilled inventor. Mina suffers scorn from the very citizens she strives to protect because her mother was raped during the invasion, making Mina’s Horde blood apparent to anyone who sees her. The marauders were driven out of England when the Iron Duke blew up their control tower, thus releasing the technological control over the populace. Rhys Trahaearn’s given a title and lands befitting a national hero.
When someone drops a dead body onto the London doorstep of the Iron Duke, Mina and her bodyguard and partner, Constable Newberry, are called in to investigate. Here, an adventure involving pirate airships, dirigibles, zombies, a kraken, a re-imagining of the map of the world and workers with body parts replaced according to their occupations, begins and a love story full of tenderness and passion is ignited.
THE IRON DUKE has some of the best worldbuilding and characterization in a novel I’ve ever read. Even though steampunk is generally associated with Victorian England, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact period setting of the book though it appears to be alternative Georgian England. All the principals are thoroughly fleshed out and discoverable through the story’s action. Trahaearn, the Duke of Anglesy, ex-pirate captain (I KNOW!), and survivor of childhood slavery, sees Mina in a way that others don’t and like any detective worth their salt, she’s suspicious of his motives. The common thread for Rhys and Mina is that they’re both so much more than meets the eye, even in the nanotech that enhances both their bodies in different ways.
Want to try THE IRON DUKE? Do you have another steampunk recommendation to share?
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