Author: Devon Monk
Series: The Age of Steam #1
Publishing Date: July 5, 2012
Format: Trade Paperback
Genre: Steampunk (Western)
Welcome to a new America that is built on blood, sweat, and gears... In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle for the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides, cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother's death. Then he's offered hope that his brother may yet survive. All he has to do is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers-and now in the hands of an ancient Strange who was banished to walk this Earth. In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only things a man can count on are his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he's going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all..
"Don't know about my knives, but my gun's made of pain."
Dead Iron was definitely a monstrosity of a book to take on as my first Western Steampunk. It wasn't super long, but it was oh-so-terribly western. Most of you know that normally, I am not a big western buff. I don't read them, and I can barely watch Western movies. It takes something truly awesome, like Steampunk or the paranormal, to get me to pick up something about the American West. Even with all the cool clockwork, Strangework, and magical stuff involved, Dead Iron was almost too much of a western for me. It's such a well...masculine genre. It's all about defending your land, and getting the woman, and killing injuns and that just isn't my cup of tea. Cedar is such a loner, and he's so dark and somber that it was hard to find him attractive as a main character. Still, I got really into the story as the book went on and found myself really getting a kick out of everything. I loved the paranormal "cursed by the gods" aspect, as well as the witchcraft and coven sections too.
The cast of characters was immense and varied greatly. From the male lead, a shape-shifter, forlorn and cursed to lose himself to madness, to the the female lead, a dark witch bound by her powers and the love of a dead husband, everyone has their own agenda, and they tend to go after it with a blood-thirsty and single-sighted purpose. I found the huge cast to be a little off-putting at first. As each character takes their turn narrating, more and more questions are left unanswered and more plot-lines are introduced until you feel like you are reading several books at one time. You also have trouble bonding with one character or another because so much of the narration is charged with anger, blood-lust, and a quest for revenge. However, as the story progressed (about half-way in) all of the single threads started to twine together to form one huge and multi-layered story that charges forward, leaving you gripping the pages all white-knuckled and tense. The characters do seem to grow on you and as you experience their pain you start to root for them to get what they want, whether it's their son back, or the blood of their kin's killer.
It was weird, but one of the things I liked best about this book was that there was no romance clouding the plot. Normally I am ALL for the hot sexy MC stealing off into the night with his darling damsel, but for this story, there really wasn't room for love. Sure there was the occasional lingering glance, or outright gawping at a half naked man-chest, but other than that there was no ooey-gooey stuff gunking the book up. Well, aside from a love so powerful it succeeds in bringing Mae's husband back from the dead more times than you can count. Mae's vow to her husband and Jeb's love for Mae create this terrifying zombie-like creature hell bent on revenge for the one who separated the two of them. It's tragic, it's dark, it's everything I want in my creepy, steampunky, zombie-like romance.
This was a very intensely visual book. There was a lot that was going on and I almost wish that there was a movie version because I really don't think you can get the full effect of the power of Steampunk without that great visual of gears twisting and clacking, steam shooting out of mechanical monsters, and the rusty, iron bodies of the creatures themselves as they come for you. So much of this genre is the aesthetic and this book is definitely something that would probably be best seen as a movie. Still, the descriptive imagery was so rustic and harshly mechanical that you couldn't help but be sucked into this rough world of the American West. I can only hope that if some studio decides to create this world in real-life, they will do half as good of a job physically creating it as Devon did writing it.
P.S. This review counts towards the GRAND PRIZE giveaway at the end of Let's Get Steamy! Leave a comment and you automatically get an entry!