Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dead Iron by Devon Monk - review

Dead Iron
book one of Age of Steam
Available July 5, 2011

Devon Monk

I am liking this cover. See the intense man, gun in his hand...he means business. Notice the trees in the background - there is a forest in the novel. I like the whole feel of the cover. However, looking at the cover, you'd get the impression that it's mainly about one man, when in fact there are quite a few important may start out with one man being the focus but I think that at least two other characters have just as much growth and change happen to them as Cedar, the man pictured here.

Cedar is a man who lives outside the small town of Hallelujah. He's a loner, who has had quite a catasrophic change in his life, losing some close family members. He also has an issue that affects him every full moon. The rest of the time he spends keeping away from people in general, yet looking for lost people when needed - whether he's been asked to help or not.

Rose Small is a young girl that has been adopted by the couple who owns and runs the mercantile of the town. There's not a lot of love lost between them, she's treated as a family servant (seems like to me) and the town people look at her as a bit touched, or a little crazy. She is different. She hears and sees things just a bit different than normal. She also has a talent with inventing things and is very curious about life outside the small town she lives in.

Mae Lindson is a white woman who is married to a black man - something that isn't quite against the law in this version of 1800's life in the United States, but still looked on scandulously. Nevertheless, her and her husband Jeb, share a great love that is enhanced because they each have made vows to each other - til death do us part. When you have magic talent, this vow is stronger than usual...something that becomes apparent after you've read the first section of this novel. Gives me shivers - good shivers, in a strange way. :)

There is also an odd trio of brothers - miners, who are paranoide, strong as hell, huge and love to fight. They're a bit touched also, and when they decide to fight (which is often) they laugh loudly the whole time they're fighting. I loved this about them. These men have hidden depths to them. I always love a good happily rowdy character, and there are three here.

This group of people come together when a series of events affects them all, one way or another. A child is missing, a husband has disappeared and a mysterious man with a sinister sidekick is bringing the rail to town....Strange things are happening.

Dead Iron is full of wonderfully strange happenings. There is the regular small town life that is normal in the 1800's, mining, farming, trade etc. There is also inventions - with gears and hinges, attachments large and small - all powered with this magical thing called glim. Glim is very mysterious and expensive. Some people have an affinity for working with gearworks, clockwork items. These items have many uses, from the huge earth pounding clockwork that is used to drive the spikes into the railroad to the small delicate workings that are used for decorations or any other small uses.

Devon Monk brings all of these characters and gadgets together along with something otherworldly called The Strange. The Strange is deadly to humans, and usually only seen a small spirits, or shady things....but sometimes they posses a clockwork item, or a person...The story is so interesting, so well written that when I finished reading it, I felt like I was missing something. Like I should have still been reading this novel. The dialog - Devon Monk is great with dialog, her characters all having their own voice. Some of them are so formally evil, some sound just like small town people, some are wonderfully crazed (theose loony brothers) . There is one scene toward the end of the book that was heartbreakingly beautiful - between two people who have this great have to read it though.

Dead Iron is definitely a book you'll want to read. Even if you aren't a fan of steampunk, this story has a lot to offer with a strong plot, strong storytelling. I am very glad that it is the first in a series, I'm looking forward to more of these characters and this steampunk version of 1800's life. I loved it, and wish that I were still reading it. I remember feeling this same way when I finished reading Ms Monks debut novel (Magic to the Bone).

I loved this book, I think it's a great novel, and Ms Monk is a hell of a storyteller. Dead Iron doesn't have a standard happily ever after ending, but there is a good ending, with the promise of better times for some of the characters. She is very generous with her excerpts - there is plenty to choose from. Click on one of the links, and if you haven't yet decided to get this novel, reading the excerpts ought to tempt you to buy.


  1. Can't wait to get this one. I love the cover!

  2. I'm pretty sure you'll like it... a lot. It's a pretty good story, with great cast.