Review: The Iron Duke

iron dukeReviewed by Jen

This is another series pushed heavily to me by a few of my book friends.  I was a little hesitant to pick it up, because I have been hit and miss with steampunk and I didn’t know whether it would be a good fit.   My main fear was that it would be “too steampunk.” Let’s face it, there are varying degrees… from stories with an airship or wind-up sprinkled in… to others with giant manned-robots, goggle-attire, and elixirs.  In case you’re wondering, on a scale from one to 10, this series is about an 11 on the steampunk scale. But the more I read, the deeper I fell into the world.

The basic premise is that a Horde of Mongol invaders took over most of Europe by using nanotechnology to enslave the people.  Using the so-called bugs, the Horde could control the bodies of their captives, from their movements to their biological impulses.  They could force them to work, to be passive, even to mate.  All of this ended nine years ago when a pirate named Rhys Trahaearn rammed his ship into their stronghold, destroying their command.  Since then, he has become a symbol of freedom, a revered hero of the people, and elevated to a duke.

Mina is a police inspector and a member of the poor gentry.  She is also the product of a forced Horde mating.  Her face marks her as a mongrel. She is reviled, the scapegoat of so many who hated the Horde.  But despite the circumstances of her birth, she has the love of her family and an unwavering devotion to her job. The latter brings her in to the Iron Duke’s orbit, when a dead body is found on his property.  Mina is sent to investigate and he is drawn to her on the spot.  The two of them end up working together to figure out who killed the man, and end up uncovering a sinister plot that could destroy all the survivors of the Horde invasion.

There are mechanical body parts, nanotechnology, airships, coal-powered vehicles, and yes, a giant robot.  But at its core, this book is about basic humanity; what is the best and worst of us.  It’s about fear and prejudice, loyalty and love, heroes and villains.  And underneath all that is a romance.  I enjoyed the book –I really did– but I did have a problem with the Duke’s approach to Mina.  While we come to learn he would never force her into sex, he really did foist himself on her in just about every other way.  He overpowered and overshadowed her wants and free will to satisfy his own desires too many times for my taste.  Yes, he’s a good man, albeit a rough one; and yes, he’s been through a lot. But I didn’t like feeling like he was bullying Mina into getting his way.  On top of that, I felt like the degree and speed in which he became nearly obsessed with her was a bit over the top.

I did enjoy Mina. She has this unwavering fire in her belly. She endures. She is pragmatic and so strong.  Except when Rhys threatens her heart.  Her emotional range was much more believable for me and in keeping with her backstory.

I think I will read more from this series, since I do feel firmly ensconced in the world and because I grew to really love Brook’s Guardian series.  Hopefully, the next romance will resonate more for me.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Iron Duke
by Meljean Brook
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Publisher: Berkley


  1. OMG!! You are making me so happy by reading all things MELJEAN! You know how I love Guardians… well, I honestly think Iron Seas is a better series! I have been blown away by the titles and novellas. I hope you grow to love it, too! Keep me posted!

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