I got a copy of The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook for my birthday a few months back (should an FTC disclaimer be required, consider this it), and it’s taken me a while to get around to writing this review. I had to put some thought into this one. Something about the book bothered me, and it’s taken me a long time to dig around inside that vague discomfort and shape my thoughts into something I could articulate.
I wouldn’t say the book was bad, I enjoyed parts of The Iron Duke quite a bit. Some elements are awkwardly pieced together. The discrepancy almost made it seem like 2 different stories were stitched together.
A Tale of Murder, Mystery and Mortal Peril!
The main story of the the book is a rousing adventure. We follow along with Detective Inspector Willamina Wentworth as she investigates a very strange crime scene. A body has turned up at the home of a national hero. To solve the mystery she’ll have to deal with mercenaries, scoundrels, bounders, secretive cabals and zombies, but the most perilous problem she will face is Rhys Trahaearn, the Iron Duke himself.
An Exhilarating Story of Desire and Scandal!
Rhys has taken an interest in Mina beyond her official capacity as Detective Inspector. The former pirate captain has decided to take Miss Wentworth as his own. Mina can’t give in to his desire, or her own, because one false step in the investigation could ruin her forever.
The background for the book was immensely intriguing to me. The Mongol Horde have taken over Europe and Africa, and subjugated England with nanotechnology. The continents are a no-mans-land filled with zombies and the sea is filled with monstrous mutated creatures, all under control of the Horde.
Sounds awesome, right?
It is, mostly. The adventure and mystery are a fun read. It almost comes across as a Young Adult adventure story, which is fine and dandy by itself. The problem really starts with the romance aspect. The sex is detailed and explicit, almost to the point of being pornographic. That really put it at odds with the rest of the book for me.
If the sex had been handled differently, or if the rest of the book had included more mature themes, then I don’t think I would have had nearly as much trouble reconciling those two aspects of the book. As it stands, it’s almost like watching a Pirates of the Caribbean movie occasionally spliced with porn.
That wasn’t my biggest problem with the book though. There was one particular scene that offended me as a reader, and it had nothing to do with sex.
During a very action oriented part of the book the characters split up, and we as readers follow the character that does nothing. We sit and wait for someone to come and bring us back into the story. A couple of listless paragraphs about waiting, with no tension building at all. That was a major cop out. I was shocked that something so… lame actually made it to print.
If you enjoy adventure stories and detailed sexual content, then The Iron Duke may be for you. If you’re only into one or the other, then The Iron Duke won’t be as enjoyable.