Title: Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2)
Author: Meljean Brook
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heart of Steel is yet another solid installment by Meljean Brook. From the beginning itself, I knew I was going to love this tale. Archemides Fox, the wily adventurer we met in The Iron Duke, had already captured my attention and the sparks between him and Yasmeen, the headstrong and fierce captain of an airship, promised to be good. And they were. Archemides and Yasmeen are the type of couple who balance one another out perfectly and everything, from their banter to their swash-buckling adventures, was utterly entertaining. Brook writes romances that seem flawed from first glance, full of power imbalances and seemingly impossible personal hurdles, but she makes them work and, best of all, her romances always end with both characters on equal ground - a feat that is, unfortunately, all too rare in romantic fiction these days.
And yet, while Brook constructs plausible romances, her strength lies in her world-building and the slow build-up of her characters. Once again, the world Brook has created stuns us in its scope. Where The Iron Duke revealed one aspect of this universe, Brook only continues to peel back its layers, its history, and its unrelenting secrets. Heart of Steel, as the second novel in this series, contains far less info-dumping that its predecessor did, but thankfully the world-building is just as prevalent. As far as the plot goes, Heart of Steel is more reliant on character development than The Iron Duke was, though both novels contain very well flesh-out characters. As always, these imaginary people come to life, full of their passions and fears and strange dreams.
Yasmeen is a confident heroine, ruled only by her fear to be caged. If Eowyn were given the chance to escape Rohan on an airship, then she'd probably become Yasmeen. Only Yasmeen is far more concerned about money and her ruthlessness and rough past have made her encase her heart in steel. (Hence the title of this novel!) While Yasmeen slowly reveals parts of her past, however, incurring depth over time, Archimedes Fox is a far more transparent character. Fox, sadly, does not have the level of depth that Yasmeen does. Although he manages to capture hearts with his charm, adventurous spirit, and deep understanding of Yasmeen - actually letting her be herself and loving her for that instead of confining her - his narration is sadly composed of many cheesy lines and odes to having his heart broken.
Nevertheless, the worst part of Heart of Steel is undoubtedly its cover and when that's the worst you can say about a book, you know it can't be that bad at all. While I did enjoy The Iron Duke better by the end, despite my rough start with that installment, Heart of Steel is un-put-down-able from the beginning and well-worth the time. Even with that cover making you want to flinch.
Summer Series Reading Challenge: 1
Title: Tethered (Iron Seas, #2.5)
Author: Meljean Brook
Rating: 3.5 Stars
In many ways, Tethered is a stronger novel than Heart of Steel; there are certainly elements in it that I wish were present in the full-length novel itself. For one, what this novella does a remarkable job of is capturing the tortured essence of Archimedes Fox - a side to him we unfortunately didn't see very much of before. Tethered not only delves deeper into the complex relationship between Yasmeen and Archimedes, one that balances precariously on equality, love, and uncertainty, but also deeper into the hearts of both Yasmeen and Archimedes individually. And, honestly, for me, seeing a side of Archimedes that wasn't entirely understanding and perfect was refreshing. I've yearned for more from his character and was finally given it. Even Yasmeen, who has always seem so well-fleshed-out to me managed to become a character with even more layers to her. Not only do these two make a stunning couple in their deep-seating understanding of each other, but the manner in which they work through their hurdles and respect each other is nothing short of beautiful. Truly, the relationship between Yasmeen and Archimedes only gets better, finally exploring all lingering uncertainties between the two and tackling on problems - together. If there are any flaws with Tethered, it is that the ending is too rushed, flipping quickly through scenes that cause a disconnect between the slow build-up of the plot in the beginning. Nevertheless, despite that, this is yet another entertaining and utterly satisfying installment from Brook. Fans of Archimedes and Yasmeen will not want to miss this one for sure.