Dead Iron by Demon Monk
Reading level: Adult
Trade paperback: 352 pages
Release date: July 5, 2011
Series: Age of Steam #1
Source: Personal shelf
Reviewed by: Jenn
In some ways, Cedar Hunt seems to have been created for America's steam age. This hard-working bounty hunter possesses the guns, the savvy, and the grit to survive in this power-driven world; but he also has a major chip on his shoulder: He's a werewolf and, even worse, he's burning with guilt about the death of his brother. When he receives word that his sibling may yet survive, Cedar pulls out all the stops to get to the truth.
Dead Iron is the first book in Devon Monk's new steampunk series. I've read a couple of her Allie Beckstrom novels before but wasn't bowled over by them, but I just couldn't resist picking up a copy of Dead Iron. I'm a sucker for a gorgeous cover and an intriguing synopsis, both of which this book definitely has.
What sets the Age of Steam apart from other steampunk series for me is that it's not set in Victorian England, it's set in the American West. I love Victorian steampunk (and its derivatives, like Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, which blends a whole bunch of genres together) but there was something about steampunk in the West that really grabbed me. It's a nice departure from some of the other steampunk books, plus it allows me to indulge in my love of Westerns, though I usually prefer TV shows and movies over books for this genre. The author does a great job of giving the book a Western feel, though I could have seen fewer "reckon"s in the dialogue and been okay. The world is well described and I love the way she gets inside the minds of devisers, those folks who tinker and make all sorts of matics.
Dead Iron is written in the third person, which allows Devon Monk to explore various perspectives. It's been a while since I've read a book that wasn't told from a first person perspective and it was refreshing to be able to get different viewpoints, particularly since the author has done a wonderful job of giving each character a distinct voice.
Most of the novel is told from the point of view of Cedar Hunt, a man cursed to be a werewolf and to hunt the Strange by a Pawnee god (though the word werewolf doesn't show up in the book, if I remember correctly). He's not too happy with transforming into a wolf but he tries to do right even as he keeps to himself. He gets sucked into the story when he tries to find a missing boy who was taken by one of the Strange. Also involved are Rose Small, the daughter of shopkeepers who has a little something going on, the Madders brothers, who are even odder and add a lot of humor to the story, and Mae Lindson, a powerful witch. They're a motley crew but they all have something to contribute to Dead Iron. Cedar, Rose, and Mae, in particular, have some great character arcs and it was very satisfying to watch them go on their individual journeys over the course of the novel.
By the end of Dead Iron, we have some resolution but there's definitely some stuff built in to fuel the second novel in the series, Tin Swift. I'm really happy about this because I'm not ready to say goodbye to these characters or this setting. I just have to wait a year to get there...
Want to know more? Head on over to Dark Faerie Tales to read an interview with Devon Monk and have a chance to win your own copy of Dead Iron as part of Fantastic Fables!