Iron Seas #1
From Goodreads: After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.
But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
I liked this book. It was somehow simultaneously both very original and completely conventional. I was truly fascinated by the combination steampunk/scifi/alternate history world Brook created for this story - after 200 years of Mongol oppression through some sort of emotion-controlling nanotech, the Iron Duke overthrew Horde rule and uninfected expats are returning to Britain.
I do wish there had been a little more focus on the world and the conflicts it presented rather than the romance, which could easily have been drawn out over several books. The attraction between Mina and Rhys seemed to be mainly physical, which is fine but I do like to see a little more there.
The main plot was dark and interesting and made great use of the world of the Iron Seas. What started out as a (mostly) simple murder case became a battle for survival on a grand scale. Suspense, betrayal, and near-death experiences are always fun (to read about). Some of the minor characters were quite fascinating - the Blacksmith, for example - and I'd almost rather have read their stories than this one. However, The Iron Duke was a pretty good read overall, and definitely worth a try.
Plot: 4 cupcakes
Characters: 3 cupcakes
Style: 3 cupcakes
Overall: 3 cupcakes
If you liked The Iron Duke, try:
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville