Iron and Blood (#1 Jake Desmet)
by Gail Z. Martin and Larry Martin
Rating: 3 Stars
New Pittsburgh in 1898, a crucible of invention and intrigue, the hub of American industry at the height of its steam-driven power. Born from the ashes of devastating fire, flood and earthquake, New Pittsburgh is ruled by the shadow government of The Oligarchy. In the abandoned mine tunnels beneath the city, supernatural creatures hide from the light, emerging to feed in the smoky city known as ‘hell with the lid off.’
Jake Desmet and Rick Brand, heirs to the Brand & Desmet Import Company, travel the world to secure treasures and unusual items for the collections of wealthy patrons, accompanied by Jake’s cousin, Veronique ‘Nikki’ LeClerque. Smuggling a small package as a favor for a Polish witch should have been easy. But when hired killers come after Jake and a Ripper-style killer leaves the city awash in blood, Jake, Rick and Nikki realize that dark magic, vampire power struggles and industrial sabotage are just a prelude to a bigger plot that threatens New Pittsburgh and the world. Stopping that plot will require every ounce of Jake’s courage, every bit of Rick’s cunning, every scintilla of Nikki’s bravura and all the steampowered innovation imaginable. ..
This one took a very long time to get going, it’s also incidentally the book I put aside in favour of reading the infinitely preferable Stardust.
Pros: Women in active roles, some cool gadgets, a great sense of adventure, plausible alternate histories.
Cons: The cast of characters was far too large for the first book in a series, the world building was sporadic and there were too many points of view. Spent too long following the villains and exposed their plot fairly early on.
C0nclusion: Some of the secondary characters were more interesting than the main protagonist. I’d probably give the second book a go as and when it appears, but I’m not going to be rushing to read it!