Series: THE AGE OF STEAM
Plot Type: HIS, Steampunk Romantic Suspense
Ratings: V5; S1-3; H2-3
Publisher and Titles: Roc
Dead Iron (7/2011)
Tin Swift (7/2012)
Cold Copper (7/2013)
BOOK 2: Tin Swift
In book 1, the story focused on the railroad, but in book 2, we're up in the air—high above the Bitterroot Mountains on steam-driven airships to be exact. In Dead Iron, we learned that glim is a rare and valuable resource that is harvested from the sky. "Glim, more precious than diamonds or gold, used to power ships on air, water, or land. Used to heal the sick, cure the blights, turn the tide in wars, and make anything and everything stronger and longer lasting. Glim was even rumored to extend a man's life well beyond his years....But the only place glim was known to occur with any regularity was above high mountain ranges, and up higher still. Above the storm clouds, floating like nets of soft lightning, the glim fields were capricious and fleeting. Difficult to find. Deadly to harvest." (p. 19) In this book, we meet the glim harvesters, hard and violent men and women who live on the edge of danger and who don't mind turning their backs on the law.
Devon Monk turns away from her ALLIE BECKSTROM urban fantasy series and tries her hand at steampunk in this fascinating series that begins in Oregon in the late 1800s. Future books will be set in different locations in the U.S. as the story follows the travels of the main characters. If you are not familiar with steampunk fiction, click on the word anywhere in this review to go to my "Definitions" page and then scroll down for a brief explanation. Click HERE if you want even more information about this sub-genre of science fiction/fantasy fiction.
Following is a list of the good guys and gals who have continuing roles in the series:
The series story arc focuses on the retrieval of the Holder, which is described here by Alan Madder--just one of the numerous good and bad guys who are desperate to own it: "The Holder is a device of seven pieces, made of the seven ancient metals. Each piece is a talisman, an artifact, a device to be used for good: healing the sick, blessing crops, bringing peace unto a land. When this New World was discovered, the Holder was brought here as a gift by likeminded men who wanted peace and prosperity for settlers and natives alike. But Shard LeFel caught rumor of it. He sent his Strange to sniff it out...Then they worked their dark devising. The Holder is now a weapon of pain, plague, war. Each piece broken and remade Strangewise, so that nothing but sickness, ruin, and chaos fall to any who find it. And if someone is clever enough to put those seven pieces back together again, then they'll be clever enough to understand the Holder can also be a weapon of a magnitude that has never been seen in these lands." (Dead Iron, p. 333)
BOOK 2: Dead Iron
The series opener is set in Hallelujah, Oregon, an isolated town that has pinned its hopes for prosperity on the new railroad that is inching its way toward them. The villain of the story is the seemingly human Shard LeFel, a wealthy railroad tycoon who is desperate to get back to his Strange homeland (from which he was banished by his brother) before the next waning moon. If he can't return by then, he will die. LeFel has set up his headquarters in three specially built railway cars. The story reminded me a lot of Sergio Leone's great classic film, Once upon a Time in the West. Both story lines involve a villainous railroad tycoon; soulless, murderous villains; and heroes who are society's castoffs. LeFel's right-hand man is Mr. Shunt, a powerful Strange who is ensconced in a matics body that appears to be human. In order to go through a portal and back into the Strange, LeFel needs a wolf, a witch, and the blood of a dreaming child. The plot follows his efforts to attain all three while the good guys try to stop him. One additional character also tries to stop LeFel: Mae's husband, Jeb. LeFel keeps trying to kill Jeb, but Jeb keeps rising from the grave—and his one and only goal is to kill LeFel so that he can save Mae's life.
The story is filled with action, from murderous matics to bullying drunks to a witch-hating mob. The mythology of the Strange is lightly sketched, but if you just keep reading, you'll understand the concept. The story is told in the third person, and it moves from one person's perspective to another. In general, we see things from the standpoint of Cedar, Mae, Rose, Jeb and LeFel. After the climactic ending, the surviving characters head East for their next adventures.
Although I'm not a huge steampunk fan, I did enjoy this book. The concept is fresh and inventive, and the characters are complex and well drawn. By the end, I found myself wanting to know what will come next for each one of them, so I plan to keep reading the series.
Click HERE to read chapter 1 of Dead Iron. Click HERE to go to my review of Devon Monk's ALLIE BECKSTROM Series.
Here is a description of one of LeFel's matins, each of which is powered by a vial of glim, a rare, magical substance harvested from the air:
"Beneath the shadow of a tree, a small matic clicked and whirred. Sensing the tremble of stones and dirt falling from the dead man's grave, it rose up upon spider legs, balancing its portly copper teapot body. The gyroscope and compass set within its belly pointed the ticker east. It skittered off on quick, spindly fee. East. To the rail. To the man who had left it spying here. To Mr. Shard LeFel" (Dead Iron, p. 38)