Book Review

Riveted by MelJean Brook: A Guest Review by CarrieS


Title: Riveted
Author: Meljean Brook
Publication Info: Berkley Trade September 4, 2012
ISBN: 978-0425256046
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Riveted - by MelJean Brook. Meljean Brooks' new novel, Riveted, is a steampunk romance that is also part of the Iron Seas series.  I love so many things about the Iron Seas and this book did not disappoint.  It works fine as a stand-alone novel.

It has action and adventure but also many quiet scenes between characters.  Although this book is more slowly paced than some of her other books, this means that there is time for the story and the relationship to truly develop.  There is gorgeous world building, and some deeply moving content. 

The book entertains, but it also tackles tough issues.  The hero is a scientist, and you all know how crazy I am about scientist heroes.  For anyone who was off-put by the old school aspects of The Iron Duke  ( A | BN | K | S | ARe ), David is a gentle, respectful, nurturing hero who is also able to shovel coal for hours and walk through the snow without shoes while carrying the heroine if he has too.  Meanwhile, Annika faces her own fears and insecurities, but she is, in her own way, tough, smart, funny, and endowed with some very interesting skill sets.  In case you are wondering why David has to carry Annika in one scene, it's not because she's a wilting flower who has swooned.  There are mitigating factors. She's cool.

Ah, the plot.  Annika works on an airship because it allows her to travel the world searching for her sister.  David is a scientist who studies volcanoes, motivated largely by having survived an explosion as a child.  This explosion killed his mother and left him with mechanical legs, a mechanical hand, and a mechanical eye.  David is searching for his mother's people.  When these two end up on the same airship, adventures ensue in the air, at sea, and on (and under) the ground of Iceland.

Want to know how to do exposition?  Read the first chapter. In the first chapter, Annika tells a short history of the Horde that over-ran much of the worlds.  Then she says that she first left her village she was frightened of everything, but eventually learned what, specifically, to be frightened of at each port.  She goes on to outline the perils of each port as well as the truth she's learned – that even if you think you memorized the rules, you must not drop your guard.  This should be required reading for every author of science fiction and fantasy.  With beautiful language and a minimum of awkwardness, the reader learns everything he or she needs to know about the world of this novel and its protagonist.  Just fantastic.

One thing I like about Meljean Brooks is that she writes “strong female characters” – but she doesn't fall into the trap of having a “strong female character” template.  Annika, Mina (from The Iron Duke) and Yasmeen (from Heart of Steel) are all strong, but they are very different – they are each their own person.  Likewise, the male characters are different – which is great, because I adored everything about Iron Duke except for the character of the Iron Duke, and I feared I was doomed for an entire series of brooding and slightly rapey heroes until her other books came out and I met the clever and tenacious Archimedes Fox and the kind and noble (but not too noble) David Kentewiss. 

Anyone who has read my other reviews will not be surprised to find that David makes me all woozy in the brains.  I love the detail that his mechanical eyepiece lets him do all kinds of nifty things, but also has a tendency to fog up just like any other glasses do.  It's that kind of detail that anchors all this steampunk madness and makes it real, not to mention kinda funny.

The above two paragraphs are just some highlights of things I was thinking about when reading.  This is the kind of book that ca spark many a deeply philosophical essay, yet never stops being fun to read.  My only caveat is that I found it strangely easy to pick up and put down, as opposed to needing to power through it the way I do some books.  This might be because of my other life circumstances at the time, it might be because I was distracted by a new Terry Pratchett novel that was due in three days (LOVE YOU, TERRY – and yes, I did finish The Long Earth before I had to turn it in, and it was awesome), or it might be because the book was slower in pace than some others.   It wasn't unpleasant to pick up and put down – I sort of enjoyed reading a little, and then mulling it over, and daydreaming, and then reading a little more. 

I ended up with a lot to think about including issues of gender, sexuality, equality, the meaning of bravery, and a declaration of love that made my toes go all tingly.  Also, lest you think I've gone soft with all this stuff about relationships and issues, here's a partial list of the steampunky goodness:  giant mechanical whale, scientist/explorers (non-mad), scientist (mad, evil), scientist (mad, non-evil), nanoagents, fashion, mechanical trolls, and, of course, airships.  Oh, also…clockwork dogs!  Special points for the fact that there are actual reasons for existence of the clockwork dogs – they aren't just nifty, they serve a specific purpose.  For me, some of the Iron Seas stuff is a hit and some is a miss, but it's always exquisitely well thought out in every detail.  Riveted is the standard against which I am currently measuring all steampunk.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Anony Miss says:

    Great review! Oh for a nearby library…

  2. 2
    LG says:

    Oh, goody! I hadn’t realized another Iron Seas book had come out. I was just thinking that I needed to put together an order for season 2 of Downton Abbey – I can add this to that order, because, based on past experience, it’s probably not available at my local Hastings.

  3. 3

    Yay! I love the Iron Seas books.

  4. 4
    Vicki says:

    And Iceland. Love Iceland. Must get credit card, must get book….

  5. 5
    MarieC says:

    Great review! I cannot wait to get this tomorrow (or more aptly, tonight on my kindle)!

  6. 6
    Katie Dancer says:

    “I ended up with a lot to think about including issues of gender, sexuality, equality, the meaning of bravery, and a declaration of love that made my toes go all tingly. “

    This sold the book.  I just finished – and enjoyed – the first two Iron Seas but planned to take a break.  Now it’s like you hand sold the book to me.  I just love a book that prompts thinking and feeling at the same time

  7. 7
    Todd says:

    I recently finished “Riveted”; I’d read the first one, “The Iron Duke” and LOVED it. The second one not so much. There’s at least one short story in an anthology that’s very good. “Riveted” isn’t my favorite, but I liked it a lot. And I did enjoy the hero’s ability to change his mindset.

    Now … for anyone else who’s enjoying this series, there’s another steampunk series with romance in it – Devon Monk’s “Dead Iron” and “Tin Swift” (with more to come). They have a combination of technology and magic that I, personally, enjoy.

  8. 8
    cleo says:

    I’m half way through Riveted and I love it.  I love it so much I simultaneously want to finish it immediately and never, ever come to the end.  When I read about the clockwork dogs, I immediately thought of you CarrieS (I didn’t read your review until now – didn’t want to risk any accidental spoilers).  You sure picked a good palette cleanser after your last review – and, a nice segue into Games of Command, about another cyborg virgin hero. 

    Has anyone read Tethered?  Apparently it’s the bonus short story in the mass market version of Heart of Steel and will someday be released as an ebook.  I’m curious about it.

  9. 9
    CarrieS says:

    I concur with Todd – for some reason I wasn’t that crazy about the middle book, Heart of Steel.  I haven’t read Tethered but I have read two of the other novellas.  They OK, but not Brook’s best work.  I’m in the middle of the novella “Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City” now and as of halfway through the book it is marvelous – a really masterful look at how Mina and Rhys navigate marriage.  Having said that, I don’t think it would be a satisfying read as a stand alone – read Iron Duke as a follow up and the novella for a dessert.

  10. 10
    harthad says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only bothered by the Old Skool hero of The Iron Duke. Interesting world, interesting story, but the hero’s behavior was really off-putting, which put me off Brooks’ books entirely. But I do love steampunk romance, so I’ll give this one consideration.

  11. 11
    harthad says:

    Oy, that’s “only one bothered….”

    Oh, for an “edit comment” function.

  12. 12
    CarrieS says:

    Rhys’s portrayal in “Mina Wentworth” novella is really interesting.  As much as I can’t stand those kinds of heroes, I do think Brook’s writes him incredibly well.  Having said that, David in “Riveted” is WAAAAY more my style.

  13. 13
    PickleChick says:

    Ooh.  I thought this wasn’t out for another month or so.  LOVED the first book and pimp it out to whoever will read it.  Second book I read on vacation and enjoyed, but it took a long time to get into it.  Will look forward to this one.  Thanks for the wonderful review!

  14. 14
    PickleChick says:

    Double ooh.  I see that there’s an audiobook of this one, too! If only our library consortium will get it!

  15. 15
    Iravati says:

    You had me when you described how the characters are real individuals. Also, I like nerdy heroes. And “kind” and “noble” are two qualities that never get emphasized as much as I would like to see in romance, and it always surprises me. AMAZONING THIS BOOK NOW.

  16. 16

    Your description of how you could put the book down and think about it, and still love it enough to read it all and give it an A review (two things that don’t exactly go together!) is a PERFECT description of how I felt about Kira Brady’s Hearts of Darkness. I’m glad to know that’s not a strange reaction—I don’t read much steampunk, and haven’t read any Meljean Brook, so having such a completely different reading rhythm to a new book was odd for me. I usually just scarf a Regency like a bag of Ghiradelli chocolate chips, but with Hearts of Darkness, I guess it was more like a bottle of dessert wine when I could read at night—smaller glasses, smaller sips. Then during the day things would happen to make me think about it (esp. b/c it’s set in Seattle, where I live, so I kept running into imagery that echoed the book).

    So is this reading pace, taking “thinking breaks” perhaps, more common with steampunk than with other genres for the rest of you? Once I had the world down, I read faster and longer, but do you think that unlike the familiar present day or Regency, b/c of the alternate setting we have to stop and think to process more? (Or am I just slow after years of raising kids???) I think I’ll try this Meljean next – esp since I love Iceland! (or at least what I could see from an airplane and the airport!). 

    (Oh, by the way, Hearts of Darkness seems to be marketed as a paranormal, but the hero has a “deadglass” monocle thing and some of the bad guys drive steam powered cars, so …. niche hybrid genre?) 

  17. 17
    CarrieS says:

    I personally don’t link the stop and go method of reading with steampunk, maybe because I’m used to so much sci fi/fantasy?  I have seen some other reviews that said that Riveted drags a little but I just thought it was thoughtful.  I read non-fiction slowly and sometimes I read fiction slowly when I realize that I really have to pay attention to details – and Brooks always has a lot of details.  Frankly with this book I was REALLY tired when reading it and so it went slowish, plus I didn’t want it to end *sniff*

  18. 18
    RabidReader says:

    This review makes me rethink by decison to skip this book. I’ve read more scifi then romance (er, and I’ve read a lot of both…the good, bad and ugly). I loved the world in “Iron Duke” and disliked the Mina/Duke relationship but read it anyway (twice, to see if I liked their relationship better when I was not gulping the book down). I read “Heart of Steel” once and this time found it too action/adventurey for me. I felt like I was reading something that would have been better as a graphic novel with illustrations by Dave McKean. But I really loved “Here There Be Monsters”. A lot a lot. I bought “Heart of Steel” because I wanted to read about the woman that did what she did to Ivy and Machen, but I never felt like I got her. If I loved this book as much as “Here There Be Monsters” it would be totally worth the $10. If I was indifferent too it, I’d be pissed I spent that much of my book budget. Sigh.

  19. 19
    claritygolden says:

    I had to come back and comment after reading Riveted. I am not normally into steampunk, but I saw so many excellent reviews I decided to give it a try. I LOVED it. Really loved it. David may in fact be my new favorite romance hero. I love that he’s smart and sensitive but still strong, and he is Annika’s partner, not just her protector (though he definitely does some protecting when it’s needed). For me, he was the perfect blend of caring and strong that I always look for in a hero but rarely find. I was also totally charmed by the sexual experience levels they each had and how they explore that. What a refreshing set up! David and Annika have real conversations and don’t spend the whole book hiding behind a Big Misunderstanding or Big Secret—those get resolved fairly early. They both are pretty in touch with their feelings and develop a relationship in a believable way. This book just really worked for me!

  20. 20
    Griffin says:

    Claritygolden, I am on the same page as you! After reading all the great reviews here I rushed out and ordered the book, and I am now in book-hangover purgatory after reading this and “Heart of Steel” back-to-back into the wee hours. I had to pop back and say thank-you to everyone for steering me toward SUCH a great read! I l think you’re right on the money (and more eloquent than I would be able to put it) about David’s awesometasticness.  I loved how Meljean Brook developed his and Annika’s characters and their relationship throughout the book; you could really see all the layers in the foundation of their partnership. And I really enjoyed “Heart of Steel”‘s Yasmeen and Archimedes too – very Indiana Jones and the Pirate Queen. I think I may just have to reread them both and enjoy them all over again :) 

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