Tuesday, 21 July 2015
#CBR7 Book 77: "Heart of Iron" by Bec McMaster
Rating: 4 stars
Spoiler warning! This is book 2 in this series, and as such, this review will contain certain spoilers for the plot of book 1, Kiss of Steel. My review for this book also explains quite a lot about the setting and world-building for this series, so you may want to read/re-read that one first, to remind yourself of the world these books take place in . Or just, you know, read the first book. This review will still be here when you're done.
William Carver is one of the few verwulfen left in Britain after most of his kind were wiped out in the massacre at Culloden a few centuries earlier. Turned by accident at the age of five, he was held captive by a travelling minstrel crew and tortured, taunted and displayed as "the Beast" for most of his childhood and adolescence. It was only when Blade, the Devil of Whitechapel, a rogue blue blood, demanded his release that he found safety and freedom and the closest thing he would have to a family. Verwulfen are considered outlaws by the ruling classes of the Echelon, however, free game to be hunted down like the beasts they are considered, and so Will has to live in the shadows, a loyal enforcer to his best friend, always fighting to control his rage and brute strength. Because his blood or semen can spread the loupe virus that turned him into the savage creature, he can never be with a woman, terrified that he will infect someone else with his curse.
Miss Helena "Lena" Todd makes it so very difficult for Will to control himself around her. While she was living with her sister and brother-in-law in Whitechapel, Will even moved out to make sure he didn't reveal how deeply he feels for her. Now he suspects that she is involved with dangerous forces plotting possible treason against the Echelon, and he needs to make sure that she stays safe, no matter what the cost. When he realises that one of the blue blood lordlings is also out to make Lena his plaything, he starts looking for an excuse to be near her, so he can protect her. Lucky for him, part of the ruling council need a verwulfen representative to help them negotiate a peace treaty with the ruling verwulfen of Scandinavia. Will will need to learn how to walk, talk, dress and behave, and who better to teach him than Lena?
Can Will successfully aid in the signing of a peace treaty with the foreign werewolves, ensuring freedom and a stop to persecution for all other verwulfen in Britain as a result? Will he figure out exactly what Lena is helping dangerous humanist revolutionaries plot before its too late? Will the dastardly Colchester get his hands on Lena before she or her burly protector tears his throat out?
I really don't understand who Bec McMaster presumably offended in the art department at Sourcebooks Casablanca, that she keeps getting these dreadful covers, that bear absolutely no resemblance to the characters or plot of her books. The leather-clad guy on this cover is dark-haired, while Will's hair is golden. Lena is a high society debutante, who would never wear the can can dancer-outfit the girl on the cover appears to be sporting. In the background, I think there's an exploding airship, which again is completely lacking in the plot of this book. But I think the crowing glory of dumb may be the parasol that "not-Lena" is holding daintily over her head while stuff explodes in the background. Sigh.
The book is fun, but I would strongly recommend that readers start with Honoria and Blade's book, which is the first in the series. By this book, the author sort of assumes that you know your way around the world she's created, and the book is a continuation of the series, with two of the more prominent supporting characters in the first book finding their HEA over the course of the story.
Always the somewhat overlooked younger sister, Lena felt like an outsider in her own family. Her older sister assisted their brilliant father in his experiments, Lena's tinkering with clockwork devices was dismissed as insignificant. On the brink of her debut in society when their father died, Lena lost everything she cared for. After the death of their father, both sisters had to work hard to support their ailing younger brother, and when Honoria fell in love and got married, Lena felt even more left out. The patronage of Leo Barrons, heir to the Duke of Caine, allowed her to step back into high society, but working for a living and seeing how the other side lived in the poorer area of the city, now has Lena sympathising with the humanists, who seek to escape the heavy yoke of the Echelon. No one suspects that she is spying for them while attending balls and flirting with blue bloods.
Will has also always been an outsider, the only verwulfen he knows of, hunted and reviled for the first part of his life, never quite comfortable in the little band of Blade's followers because he was always aware of his rage and animal strength. When Blade received a title and a pardon from the Echelon as thanks for his actions in the first book, Will is still an outlaw. He's never really believed he could ever be part of civilised society and is therefore so wary of the offer of a pardon he is given to aid in the signing of the peace treaty. He forces the Echelon to agree to give all verwulfen in Britain their freedom before he complies and then worries he may have ruined any chance of a treaty once Lena is in danger and he loses control when coming to her rescue.
I think I actually liked Will and Lena's story even better than Honoria and Blade's, because Lena is more fun than her prim and proper older sister. For the first half of the book, there is mostly a lot of unresolved sexual tension, but in the latter half of the book, when Lena has acknowledged her feelings for Will, she's not about to let his protectiveness and fear get in the way of their happiness.
The only downside to this book is the weaselly villain - Colchester, who really should have had a big moustache that he could twirl. He was tiresome and I rolled my eyes every time he appeared. Still, this was a fun, action-packed book, with a great main couple and a lot of interesting stuff being set up for later books. I especially liked the idea that in McMaster's Steampunk Victorian times, the Scandinavian countries are ruled by various werewolf clans, with the Norwegians being the most barbaric and old school. I suspect that I will be finishing this series before I return to work in August. It's great vacation reading.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.