I was so hopeful and trepedatious approaching RIVETED, third in the Iron Seas series. With an unknown hero and heroine, I was concerned that meeting these brand new characters would make or break my enjoyment of the book. Not only were Annika and David interesting and winning, I had forgotten that the Iron Seas series is more than the sum of its characters. The world itself is utterly captivating, and RIVETED delivers a really interesting look outside the Horde ravaged boundaries of Europe.
Annika and David are much more familiar with the conservative, nano-fearing New World than England's post-Horde society, and it is that political climate that shapes Annika's secret. I love that Brook gives more than a few reasons for Annika's home village to maintain it's cultural practices, but all of that build up made the happy ending seem a little over simplified (though I still cheered). The social issues regarding homosexuality explored in RIVETED aligned with my own beliefs, but I would guess that anyone with a more traditional or conservative bent may feel defensive. Still, I felt Brook made a point of humanizing the social conflict and keeping it seperate from the villain who is identified and defeated.
Though RIVETED won't unseat THE IRON DUKE as my favorite of the series, it has taken the second place crown. Annika is winsome and refreshing, managing to be innocent and earthy without ever seeming stupid. As she always feels like an outsider, it was very believable to watcher her rare connection with David unfetter her curiosity about sex. And David is worth the curiosity, a gentle, damaged hero that soaks up Annika's happiness and kindness like a sponge. David is the first augmented main character that hasn't had the benefit of The Blacksmith's mechanical flesh, and his perception of his prosthetics was one of the interesting parts of his character. Losing a limb is a traumatic event, and rather than waving a magic wand to make everything better, Brook explores David's complicated feelings about loss and his current abilities. Annika and David both come to the relationship with little or no sexual experience, and the way they grow comfortable and confident with one another was both sweet and sexy.
As a romance, RIVETED is refreshing and well written, touching on complicated themes with sensitivity and realism. As a steampunk world, this story is five stars across the board. I can't get enough of exploring The Iron Seas, every glimpse of this alternate history leaves me fascinated and hungry for more.
Full review to follow.
Sexual Content: Sex scenes.