America was built on blood, sweat, and gears. Is that not the best tagline ever? It's also a pretty apt description for the story in DEAD IRON. The steam age America that Monk has created for this series is ingenious. The details of this world are revealed layer by layer until the whole setting is laid out is a glorious magic meets machine old West. Specifically the gadgets in DEAD IRON are magnificent both in conception and description, couple that with a motely crew of noble and nefarious characters and the result is a lovingly crafted world that needs just a bit of tinkering to really shine.
The story in DEAD IRON is told through several different point of views, all of them a little Strange. There's the main character from the description, a werewolf plagued with guilt; a witch desperate to avenge her husband's murder; a displaced girl who longs to escape her small town life; a man who manages to nearly elude death; and the Strangest of them all, the villain who ties them all together.
The first hundred pages or so are a bit sleepy, despite the lovely writing. It takes a while for the gears to really start turning in this story and all the various POVs to make sense together. I also had a few issues with the backstory, or lack there of. There are so many key incidents that are referred to repeatedly throughout DEAD IRON but only vaguely. The result felt many times like I was reading the second book in the series even though this is the first book. It's unfortunate because I think that had Monk explained exactly what had happened with Cedar and his brother and the villain and his brother (the most glaring examples) their motivations would have been so much stronger. As it is, I'm left feeling ignorant and not a little frustrated.
Overall, DEAD IRON suffers from a slow start and some crucial missing backstory pieces, but once the story got going, it was full steam ahead. The old west world is harsh and beautiful and the steam devices plentiful and fascinating. Monk's writing is quite beautiful as well. The next book in the Age of Steam series should be published in 2012.
Kissing. References to rape