Iron and Blood by Gail Z Martin and Larry Martin

Iron and Blood is a fun, steampunk adventure involving vampires, ghosts, witches, magic and madcap inventions.

The story gets off to an immediate start with an explosion of action!  Jake and Rick, accompanied by their cousin Veronique (or Nikki) are returning from what should have been a fairly small scale smuggling excursion.  Jake and Rick are heirs to the Brand and Desmet Import Company which specialises in acquiring goods for their customers, sometimes using slightly less than conventional techniques in order to do so.  Unfortunately their latest mission ends up with a shoot out above the clouds as they attempt to return home.  From there onwards it seems that their every move is dogged by wannabee assassins – perhaps the package they carried has generated more interest than they expected!

The main thrust of the story involves our trio trying to discover the identity of their would-be murderer, using whatever means they can, before they end up, well, being murdered.  Alongside this element of the story is the revelation of a mystery killer.  A vicious individual with out of control tendencies in the vein of the Ripper.

I don’t really want to give away too much plot.  Suffice to say there is plenty of action with shoot outs and would be bombings, attempted abductions and almost zombie-like people poised to attack around virtually every corner.

New Pittsburgh is the main setting.  A hub of engineering excellence with new fangled contraptions and steam driven inventions positively running amok.  The year is 1898 and whilst modern engineering is reaching the pinnacle of it’s success with virtually anything and everything being a possibility, the means to power such inventions needs to also be brought up to speed with the times.  Mining is a major industry, although prone to disasters at the best of times and the authorities controlling the digging need to pay heed to the darkness that seems to be growing in certain areas.  The digging may be uncovering more than simply the potential means of powering these new gadgets. (I can’t help thinking at this point ‘the dwarves dug too deep’ – and of course you have to read that with the voice of Gandalf running through your mind).

In terms of characters, as above we have Jake, Rick and Nikki.  On top of that we have Drostan Fletcher, an early days type of detective who is investigating the murders and Adam – the special inventor who seems to be able to make just about anything.  If you think it – he can build it.  Our intrepid trio, well, they’re fun up to a point and they bring with them a feeling of ‘jolly japes’.  You can imagine one of them blurting out ‘oh, what fun’ during a chase and shoot out and you can definitely imagine one of the baddies saying ‘if it hadn’t been for those darn kids’!  If you want a bit more emotional depth then you may not like the three of them.  Personally, they weren’t my favourites but I think they fit well with this story.  Adam, is the geeky inventor a bit too immersed in his latest project to even notice as things go pear shaped around him.  Drostan is a little bit of a show stealer.  I enjoyed spending time with him and found his particular scenes very entertaining and a bit difficult to be torn away from.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, nothing really too harsh.  As the book felt more like a tongue in cheek comic style adventure I would have preferred a few more cheesy witticisms.  It definitely could have used a little bit more humour in the dialogue I felt.  Also there was a change of tack in the narration towards the end which I felt was a bit incongruous or jarring and I wasn’t sure of the necessity for the switch.  It also began to feel a little repetitive in that every time we opened a new chapter there would be a shootout but as the story progressed I can’t really say that I felt there was any real threat and I became a bit complacent about them.  That could have been the lighthearted way that the main protagonists dealt with each new threat but it came to feel that the villains were bungling things massively.  There was an element of each of the gadgets becoming more over the top or outrageous as the book progressed and the attempted murders escalated but I think that could all be put down to the  ‘tongue in cheek’ element to the story.  I think the enjoyment from this novel will be very much based on what type of feel you decide to go with – if you want something deep and meaningful then probably best to avoid.  If you want a book that’s borders outrageous and silly with lots of action then this could be perfect.  For me, it felt like the sort of book that I like to read in between huge chunksters – the kind of book where you feel like your brain can take a breather.

Overall this is a fun, easy, quick paced read.  It has all sorts of fantastical elements that I didn’t really expect to see, with magic sitting comfortably alongside scientific invention and it ended on a note that is a perfect setup for more adventures – which will all no doubt be more crazy than the last.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.