>> Wednesday, September 05, 2012
AUTHOR: Meljean Brook
COPYRIGHT: 2012 (It came out yesterday)
SETTING: Alternate history / steampunk
SERIES: 3rd full-length book in the Iron Seas series
A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland's inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magical--and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.I adore the Iron Seas series, and one of my favourite things about it is how different each of the books and characters are. Riveted is nothing like The Iron Duke or Heart of Steel, but it's just as good.
Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on an airship, searching for her sister and longing to return home. But that home is threatened when scientific expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard, looking to expose Annika's secrets. Then disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, with their very survival depending on keeping the heat rising between them--and generating lots of steam...
As the book starts, Annika has been travelling the world for 4 years, working as an airship engineer. She's looking for her sister, for whose disappearance she feels somehow responsible, and won't return to the small village in Iceland where they're from until she's found her. We soon find out there are plenty of secrets surrounding that village, and that it's crucial for her to ensure no one finds out where it is.
On a stop-over at a New World port, Annika is helped out of a potentially sticky situation by David Kentewiss, a vulcanologist on his way to do a survey of Iceland. David has his secrets himself, including the fact that he's on a mission to find the mysterious place his late mother was from, and he hopes to find it in Iceland. And then a clue lands on his lap, when he hears a young woman speak and what he hears makes him suspect he might have found one of his mother's compatriots.
As luck would have it, the airship David and his team are taking to Iceland is the same one Annika is working on, and their meeting is the start of both a lovely romance and an exciting adventure.
One of the consequences of having read so many romance novels is that I've got used to the narrative and characterisation shortcuts so many authors take. The author will give me a small nugget about a character, and based on experience, I'll fill in the blanks with all the things I've learnt over the years that this nugget signifies.
Well, the beauty of reading Meljean Brook's books is that I have to reset my brain to zero before I start. Her characters, I have to take at face value. I find out that, say, Annika is a virgin, and can't assume that this means that she's an innocent and completely ignorant about sex, or that she's never felt desire for anyone, or that this is the author's way of telling me she's "virtuous" or "pure". Nope, the fact that she's a virgin is only one small facet of a very complex character, and all knowing of Annika's virginity tells me is that she hasn't had sex. If I want to know who she is and what her virginity signifies in her case, I have to pay attention to what she says and does. It makes for rounded, interesting, wonderful characters, and I loved it.
And the great thing when two such complex characters fall in love is that you truly get it. You understand why they're falling in love with each other, because it's obvious how perfectly well they fit, and what they bring to the relationship. And just as I said earlier that Riveted is nothing like the other Iron Seas books, neither are Annika or David anything like previous characters in the series. Yes, they are strong people, as all of Brook's characters, but they are strong in their own individual ways.
I just loved them, and I loved their relationship. It's sweet and romantic and filled with longing for each other and for the life they could have together. And this great romance is taking place in the midst of a fantastic exploration of issues of sexuality, brilliant world-building and a plot which has much more than a little adventure. In fact, the best way I can describe the action here is cinematic. There were particular moments (especially one involving a whale) that left me with my mouth hanging open and laughing in delight.
Read this. It stands alone, even though it's set in the Iron Seas world, so if you've never tried Brook before, it's a great place to start.
MY GRADE: An A-.