The Kraken King Part 1, by Meljean Brook

>> Thursday, April 17, 2014

TITLE: The Kraken King Part 1: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster
AUTHOR: Meljean Brook

COPYRIGHT: 2014 (came out Apr 15th)
PAGES: About 100

SETTING: Steampunk version of the 19th century
TYPE: Adventure romance
SERIES: Frist part of 4th full length book in the Iron Seas series

A former smuggler and thief, Ariq—better known as the Kraken King—doesn’t know what to make of the clever, mysterious woman he rescues from an airship besieged by marauders. Unsure if she’s a spy or a pawn in someone else’s game, Ariq isn’t about to let her out of his sight until he finds out…

After escaping her fourth kidnapping attempt in a year, Zenobia Fox has learned to vigilantly guard her identity. While her brother Archimedes is notorious for his exploits, Zenobia has had no adventures to call her own—besides the stories she writes. But when she jumps at the chance to escape to the wilds of Australia and acquire research for her next story, Zenobia quickly discovers that the voyage will be far more adventurous than any fiction she could put to paper…

The Kraken King is an 8 part serial, with a new episode coming out every week. It's my first proper serial. I have, of course, read books that were serialised when first published (mostly classics: Dickens, Dumas, that sort of thing), but I read those all in one go. I've never read any serials as they were meant to be read: waiting for new episodes to come out, speculating about what might come after cliffhanger endings.

Actually, I've never particularly wanted to read one that way. A couple of romance authors I like have published serials recently, and so far I've always waited until all parts were out before picking up the collected edition. I do remember saying at one point that I'd only really bother with the concept if a favourite author, like Meljean Brook, did one. Well, this is it, and I'm willing to give it a proper shot.

Part 1, as you might expect, sets up the story. The heroine is Zenobia Fox. Readers of the Iron Seas series will remember her as Archimedes Fox's sister, who chronicles his adventures in extremely successful stories (in serial form, which is very meta). Zenobia loves her brother and writing up his exploits, but she's become dissatisfied with her own unexciting life. Well, unexciting except for people kidnapping her a few times, but even that is more about her brother than about her (see the Tethered novella, for instance).

As the book starts, Zenobia has decided she wants an adventure of her own. Just a small one; she's a sensible woman and is not about to put her life in danger unnecessarily. She decides to accompany an old friend to join her Ambassador husband in the area of Northern Australia where the Nipponese retreated to after fleeing the Horde's invasion of Japan. It doesn't seem too dangerous. She'll be travelling under an assumed identity (Mrs. Geraldine Inkslinger, a widow) and in a huge, official French airship, and she'll have her highly trained bodyguards with her. What could go wrong?

Well, plenty, it turns out, when a group of marauding flyers attack the airship in a sort of suicide attack. Zenobia and her companions are rescued and taken to a nearby small settlement, Krakentown. Krakentown is ran by Ariq, the very man who rescued Zenobia herself. Ariq is not aware of it, but thanks to Archimedes' descriptions, Zenobia has recognised him as the Kraken King. I'm not sure yet what that means, other than that he was the leader of a rebellion against the Horde and is quite famous for it.

What Ariq does know is that he's fascinated by and attracted to this woman and her quick, clever, lateral-thinking mind. He wants her, he wants to know the secrets it's obvious she's hiding, and he's sure she wants him too. He's pretty frank about his attraction and it looks like there will be some time before she and her companions are able to be on their way to their intended destination. This should be enough time for him to convince Zenobia that she should give in to her own attraction, but stuff happens, plus, there are very important reasons why they must get Zenobia's friend to her husband asap.

I really, really enjoyed it. It's a fun setup (and I'll be doing much shorter summaries for future entries, now that this is done), it looks at a part of this universe we've seen nothing of, and I really liked the characters. I found Zenobia to be a very intriguing minor character in the novella Tethered, and she's just as interesting as that story suggested she was. Ariq is just as good. I know less of his background so far, but it sounds like it could be great stuff. Oh, and the chemistry is really, really well done. Ariq is quite frank about his interest, but in a very non-assholey sort of way, and I can totally understand why Zenobia's very tempted.

As for negatives, hmmm, well, there's something that happens which has the potential to become a Big Misunderstanding. This could become a bit annoying, but it's only the beginning of it here, and it could yet be turned around. We'll see how that develops.

I had part 2 available when I finished this, because Meljean had given me that as an ARC as well, but I made the effort to stop for a week and get the proper serial experience. I did want to keep reading, but in an "I'm enjoying this book very much and want more", rather than in an "I can't wait to see what happens next" kind of way. The ending was more a small natural break in the narrative than a cliffhanger. So far, so good. I wouldn't have stopped here on my own, but I'm actually finding it nice to savour this little chunk before the next one.

MY GRADE: I'm not going to grade the book until I get to the end, but if I was doing it for the different parts, this would get a really good grade.


Anonymous,  17 April 2014 at 13:17  

I'm really enjoying this, and looking forward to the next installment. So far, it seems to me that Meljean Brook understands the serial format very well; we'll see if she maintains that, or if future episodes end up feeling choppy and disconnected.

I've already preordered the next installments, but like you, will wait to give an overall grade.


Rosario 18 April 2014 at 09:54  

Glad you're enjoying it, too, Aoife! I think the type of books in the Iron Seas series, which have quite a strong adventure element, probably work better than most as serials. So far so good, I agree, and I'm hopeful that it will keep working in future episodes.

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