Sunday 22 June 2014

#CBR6 Book 55: "The Kraken King, parts 1-4" by Meljean Brook

Total page count: 335 pages

Part One: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster - 4 stars
Part Two: The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm - 4 stars
Part Three: The Kraken King and the Fox's Den - 4.5 stars
Part Four: The Kraken King and the Inevitable Abduction - 4 stars

Because The Kraken King is being published in eight weekly instalments, I'm going to blog the first four as one book, and the final four as another, mainly because I don't want to wait until I've read all the parts to share my feels so far. So to anyone reading - be aware that there is more to come.

Zenobia Fox is used to a quiet life in Fladstand (on the north-East coast of what we'd know as the US). The only bursts of any kind of excitement are when she occasionally gets abducted and held for ransom, because her brother is a tremendously wealthy adventurer and explorer, married to a ruthless and fierce airship captain (see Heart of Steel). Zenobia is the woman who chronicles their adventures, in stories everyone believes to be fiction. Her childhood friend Helene, however, knows nothing of her secret life as an author, and believes her to be a widow very conscientious about her correspondence. She asks Geraldine (Zenobia's real name) to accompany her on a journey to Nippon (Japanese-controlled areas of what we'd know as Northern Australia.) and Zenobia eagerly accepts. It will give her a chance to see some of the parts of the world she's only ever read about in her brother's letters, and ideas for her new stories.

At first, everything seems to be going well, with Zenobia's mercenary bodyguards posing as her maid and late husband's valet. When the airship they are on is shot down by bandits, Zenobia gets to experience more adventure than she had hoped for. They are rescued by none other than the Kraken King, a legendary warrior who fought the Mongolian Horde, but now wishes to live peacefully as governor of his little settlement. He needs to figure out who is behind the bandit attacks in the area and stop them, because the Nipponese Empress and her forces will obliterate all threats first and ask questions later. He is intrigued by Zenobia and her fortitude. She needs to hide her true identity, and is, as always, worried that people will use her to get to her brother. Ariq, the Kraken King, believes she may be a spy or foreign agent, and is determined to figure out what she is hiding, while also trying to tempt her into his bed.

While both keep their cards close to their chest, unaware of how much their mutual secrecy is complicating matters between them, Ariq and Zenobia's attraction towards one another grows. Zenobia and Helene need to get to Nippon, for Helene to be reunited with her husband as quickly as possible (as the lady is expecting, and can't really pass it off as her husband's if she hasn't seen him in months). Zenobia just wants to write her stories and protect her brother, while Ariq needs to prove to himself that the fascinating woman he just met and is falling for isn't a dangerous spy who could bring down destruction on him and his town.

I love Meljean Brook's Iron Seas books. The world-building of her Steampunk alternate history world is fascinating. She has a very useful guide to her fictional world here, complete with world map. The previous books, The Iron DukeHeart of Steel and Riveted have focused mostly on the European parts of this world, with the Mongolian Horde as the villains of the piece. Now she moves the action East, and shows us other exciting aspects of the world. Here Zenobia and Helene, as a white females are in a definite minority, and we see that not all the Horde are ruthless villains, and some of them were just as opposed to the world domination plans of their rulers as those who were occupied in Europe and Africa.

There is absolutely a romance at the centre of the story here, but because of the instalments, it builds slowly and there are all sorts of obstacles and misunderstandings that get in the way for the happy couple. Each instalment is about three to four chapters long, and frequently ends on a cliff-hanger. In the first part, Zenobia and Ariq meet and Zenobia's airship crashes. In the second, their party is attacked by a terrifying gigantic boiler worm on the way to a smuggler's settlement. In part three, Ariq tries to hunt down the bandit's in the various smuggler's settlements and discovers Zenobia's true identity when he rescues her from a kidnapping attempt, and in part four, he and Zenobia are in fact (as the title suggests) abducted, but not because someone wants to hold Zenobia for ransom. No, it's Ariq the abductors want. Zenobia is just taken for leverage.

I'm glad I waited until the four parts were out, so I could read it all in one go. Even so, it was very exciting to get an e-mail notification every Tuesday announcing that the next part was available for download. I can see why some fans were annoyed at Brook's decision to publish this way, but I very much enjoyed the serial format. My review of the second half of the story will follow soon.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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