Plot Type: Steampunk Romantic Suspense
Ratings: Violence—5; Sensuality—1-3; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles: Roc
Dead Iron (7/2011)
"Hang Fire" (e-story, 4/2013)
Tin Swift (7/2012)
NOVEL 3: Cold Copper
Cedar and his group are forced to stop in Des Moines because a horrendous blizzard has made the roads impassable. When they arrive, they are met by a Native American Catholic priest to whom the Madder brothers owe a favor. They also meet the villainous mayor, who immediately jails the Madder brothers, charging them with various crimes, including murder. The favor that the priest asks from the Madders is to find hundreds of missing children, who have disappeared from their beds over a period of months and have never been seen since. With the Madders in jail, Cedar and Wil, with Mae's help, try to find the children. Wil and Cedar also search for the Holder, which they can sense is nearby.
Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Rose is fed up with Hink because he has been spending all of his free time in town at the local brothels. She confronts him in a saloon, but he shrugs her off, so she stalks away and literally runs into a handsome, cultured man named Thomas Wicks, who immediately takes an interest in her. Eventually all three find themselves on the same train, headed for Kansas City. None of them make it, though, because they find that the train is carrying a cargo of cold-copper gadgetry and, that discovery leads to further adventures—most of them dangerous.
The plot follows each group as its members interact with the mayor of Des Moines and his cronies, usually in a confrontational manner that includes various types of weaponry and threats of violence. Besides the missing children and the search for the Holder, the plot includes a diabolical plan involving cold copper, captive Strange, and a robotic humanoid.
The romances between Rose and Hink and between Mae and Cedar move along a few more notches, with kisses that become more and more passionate. The humor in the story comes mostly from the Rose/Hink part of the story, with Rose and Hink sparring verbally over Hink's scandalous behavior in the brothels and with Hink learning to his dismay that he has a supervisor—and that the supervisor expects to be obeyed.
This is another exciting adventure in a terrific series, with a plot that gallops along at a compelling pace and with well-developed characters we have learned to love over the course of the three novels. I recommend that you read novels 1 and 2 before reading this one because you'll need the characters' background information and a knowledge of past events to fully understand what is going on. That is particularly true at the very end, when an old enemy resurfaces. (Please don't peak at the ending—it will spoil the suspense.)
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.
"...the clock whistle atop a turret made of iron and wood and tin, sticking up like a backbone above the blacksmith's shop. A coil of copper tubes wrapped through the structure and supported a line of twelve glass jugs, round as pearls and big as butter churns. Water poured from the top of the tower downward, like sand in an hourglass, and filled the glass jugs one at a time, until they spilled over into the next and turned the gears inside the tower toward the next hour." (Dead Iron, p. 5)
The primary source of evil in this world is the Strange, which is made up of evil spirits who cause trouble in a multitude of ways. Here is one character's description of the Strange: "He had seen the Strange—the true Strange—creatures that hitched along from the Old World, tucked unknown in an immigrant's pocket, hidden away in a suitcase, or carried tightly in the darkest nightmare. He had seen what the Strange could do when set free in this new land." (Dead Iron, p. 12)
Following is a list of the good guys and gals who have continuing roles in the series:
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)
SHORT STORY 1: Hang Fire
This is a connector story between novels 1 and 2. The story follows Cedar and his group as they begin their trip to Kansas, and it introduces Captain Lee Hink and his airship, the Swift—all key elements in the plot of Tin Swift.
Monk first distributed the story piecemeal in June and July of 2013 as part of a 20-day blog tour for Tin Swift—one chapter per blog.
If you don't want to purchase the story, you can click HERE and scroll down for a list of the 20 blog links. Reading it that way is a bit rough, because some of the blog links no longer take you directly to the chapters. In fact, the very first one is an inaccurate link that takes you to the blog, but not to the "Hang Fire" chapter. Instead, click HERE and scroll down for chapter 1. Although the link at the end of each chapter is supposed to take you to on the next chapter, that doesn't always work. Sometimes it's better just to go back to the 20-link list and click on the link for the chapter you want to read.
NOVEL 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.
When Cedar and his crew attempt to bury the dead, one body explodes and badly injures Rose and the rest rise up and attack them—with spirits of the Strange driving the human corpses. To their rescue comes Paisley Lee Cadwaller Hink Cage (aka Hink, aka Lee), captain of the Swift, a sleek, fast tin airship with a competent, if quirky, crew that is expert in harvesting glim and keeping it from being stolen by rogue airship crews. There's a reason for Hink's odd, lengthy name, but I won't spoil the pleasure of learning it for yourself. The two groups combine forces and the story follows them as they search for the Holder (to cure Rose's injury) and keep heading for Kansas (to restore Mae's sanity).
Even better than the descriptive narrative, though, is the vivid delineation of the characters, especially the cursed brothers—Cedar and Wil, who have had their lives turned upside-down by outside forces but still maintain their close relationship and their honor and nobility. Cedar seems to have burst from a heroic myth. He's fearless, but vulnerable; strong, but tender. At the end of the book, Cedar is forced to make a huge decision about his life and his brother's—whether to continue in a fight for the greater good or to take a different path that might lead them to personal happiness. Others must also make life-changing decisions, all of which portend a great continuation of their story in book 3. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Tin Swift.