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The Kraken King (Parts I to IV) by Meljean Brook

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Where did you get the book: E-arc from publisher

Publisher: Penguin/Intermix

Release Date: Out now

Parts One to Four:

 

A former smuggler and thief, Ariq—better known as the Kraken King—doesn’t know what to make of the clever, mysterious woman he rescues from an airship besieged by marauders. Unsure if she’s a spy or a pawn in someone else’s game, Ariq isn’t about to let her out of his sight until he finds out…

After escaping her fourth kidnapping attempt in a year, Zenobia Fox has learned to vigilantly guard her identity. While her brother Archimedes is notorious for his exploits, Zenobia has had no adventures to call her own—besides the stories she writes. But when she jumps at the chance to escape to the wilds of Australia and acquire research for her next story, Zenobia quickly discovers that the voyage will be far more adventurous than any fiction she could put to paper…

*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

 

Cass: Yay, Zenobia! I loved her snarky passive aggressive letters when her suicidally reckless brother was the lead in previous installments. I am so excited to spend more time with her. (Scarsdale also requires his own outing. Supporting Characters Unite!). Though I am not so sure how I feel about this “serial novel” format. I admit I cheated and read the whole thing in one fell swoop. I am too impatient for an actual serial novella.

 

Has: I definitely agree that this is a fabulous series and I was also looking forward to reading Zenobia’s story which was fantastic. I also thought it was perfectly structured especially with the serial nature of the story and I loved the action packed introduction. Although, like you, I ended up reading it one glomfest despite my intention to read it as a serial.

 

Cass: Perfect? Nothing without dragons is perfect! (Seriously, if we could get MelJean to write some nano-dragons into this series, I would lose my mind.)

I guess since my opening volley is about the less-than-perfection, I’ll lay out my primary gripe right up front. I am not a fan of romance generally (though I do like this series, and am continually deluding myself that it is, in fact, Steampunk Urban Fantasy), so I am especially aggravated by romance tropes. In here we the “misunderstanding comes between two lovers” thing. Groan. Zenobia, who doesn’t speak the local language, is informed that Ariq was sitting next to a drunk man while said drunk man proclaims he does not think she is at all attractive. Now we can never be together!

Let’s look at the problems with this response:

  1. It’s hearsay! Zenobia did not hear the conversation first hand. OBJECTION, your Honor. This statement is inadmissible.
  2. Mistranslation? Just because someone is fluent in a language does not make them fluent in subtext. How sure is Zenobia that her bodyguard was able to pick up on and properly ascribe all the nuances?
  3. Eavesdropping never tells you the whole story! This came from a snippet of a conversation the women were not even a part of.
  4. And most importantly of all, Ariq wasn’t the one who said it! He didn’t even agree.

 

This is what I would call a non-issue completely unworthy of discussion. But instead it becomes a thing.

I was absolutely loving the opportunity to see more of The Iron Seas world, and all the other fascinating non-eurocentric cultures….but was completely derailed by unnecessary angst and drama.

See, Has? Nothing is perfect without dragons. A dragon could have eaten the offending individual and resolved the whole thing without fuss.

 

Has: LOL. Well, I didn’t mind this trope because I’ve read a slew full of misunderstanding tropes and this was pretty well done in my book because it wasn’t not overwrought or wangsty or dragged on throughout the book. I liked that Zenobia and Ariq worked out their issues even though they had a few major bumps in their relationship. And in Zenobia’s defence, she wasn’t given the full details of the conversation between the two brothers and she was wary in entrusting people she didn’t know because of her past. I also felt that Ariq did something worse in later in the second installment when he went through her letters and papers when he had suspicions about her being a spy which becomes an issue later on in the story, but I liked that they did work out their differences.

I also agree about focusing on different parts of the world and exploring cultures and featuring a diverse ethnic cast which enriches this series with so much vibrancy and diversity. I really liked that in the first four parts of the installments each focused on different parts of Australia and the factions running that part of the Iron Seas world, such as Wajirri clans, the dens which are held by smugglers and the Nipponese empire. I felt that with the serial nature of the story delved into those worlds and made them come alive. I loved how much detail Meljean Brook brought into her world and you can really tell so much thought and planning has gone into the world-building which is really solid and full of rich imagination.

 

Cass: I think it says something about me that I was not at all bothered by the invasion of her privacy, but absolutely fixated on the hearsay thing.

Loved, loved, loved being in Australia – and seeing how the indigenous people thrived when not subjugated by European empires. The best speculative fiction creates a society that makes sense. Meljean Brook has done a wonderful job of creating a world where the the Brits, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Germans never had these genocidal land-thieving empires, and instead were the countries decimated by war and invasion. I love how she consistently shows how this would impact not only the countries invaded and destroyed – but also the development of other nations that were left to make their own way without Europe getting in the way. I loved seeing the smugglers dens, the clans, and the Nipponese empire, and how each interacted with the other.

Nothing in the world-building feels disconnected from the others, or oh-so-convenient for the plot. As always, world-building gets a win. (This is how I convince myself the Iron Seas are not really romances. They are just tragically mislabeled.)

Hell, even the minor little subplots worked for me. How much did you love the complete cultural obliviousness of the diplomat’s wife? Rattling on about utterly absurd bullshit “traditions” she expected to uphold during their travels? Zenobia’s ability not to mercilessly mock this woman into submission was quite impressive. I would not have been able to refrain.

 

Has: I wasn’t a fan of Helene who was the ambassador’s wife and Zenobia’s friend. I found her annoying and superficial at times. Although I agree about how Meljean examines social political elements especially with the repercussions of war and rebellions which isn’t black and white with the way things play out. Although I think there’s nothing wrong with it being a romance because this shows this genre can have so many multi-layers with great characters dealing with serious issues. The romance between Zenobia and Ariq was just wonderful. I adored Ariq who was a great hero and I loved that despite being this huge barbarian type, he totally melts when he falls hard for Zenobia. He has become one of my favourite heroes that I read this year and the start of their romance was so intrinsically romantic that I had this giddy feeling in the pit of my stomach because their love story was so absorbing and fun to read!

 

Cass: I guess I am a soulless automaton. The romance just did not engage me. I was mostly marking time until they actually fell into bed together. Granted, it also didn’t enrage me in these first parts. I wasn’t screaming at the book to HAVE SOME SELF RESPECT or desperately wishing he would be zombified. That’s practically a ringing endorsement from me.

See? Soulless.

 

Has: Heh, I thought the first four parts built up the sexual tension really well between Zenobia and Ariq and I loved what happened in the end of fourth installment. I totally melted when Ariq proclaimed Zenobia as ‘You are my Queen’. I think I fell a bit in love with him there and then! I liked how Meljean took time to establish the romance instead of them falling into bed instantly. I also loved their flirty and witty exchanges which added a fun element into their romance.  It made their relationship stronger and I loved the scene when they were abducted by the rebel general who wanted the war machine to topple the Horde empire. I also enjoyed how the intrigue and political factions vying for control was introduced, the first four installments really sets up the world, the characters and the plot fantastically. In a way I was glad I didn’t have to wait for the next installment, and maybe its because I don’t think I have the patience for a serial. The first four installments of THE KRAKEN KING for me was a breathtaking ride full of swashbuckling adventure filled with imaginative steampunk technology along with a fabulous sexy romance. I so glommed the rest of the serial in short order although the rest of this review will be posted next week!

I give the THE KRAKEN KING first four installments an A-

 

Cass: I absolutely loved the first parts of The Kraken King. The world-building was amazing, Zenobia is delightfully snarky, and the new characters all pulled me right in. Pirates and smugglers and conspiracies and secret identities and upper-crust ladies having illicit affairs….so much to amuse and entertain me. Unlike Has, however, I was not even remotely invested in the romance (unlike with Yasmeen or Mina). It read to me more like the inevitable fling when someone spends a semester abroad. Of course she was going to get some with a sexy smuggler. Who wouldn’t?

I can’t speak for how good a serial it makes since I didn’t really read it that way – but I did love all the little chapter headings, and each chapter feels discreet enough that it would work.

If you love the Iron Seas, it is absolutely worth a read – but I am not going to be re-reading anytime soon. I give The KRAKEN KING (parts I – IV) a B-.

 

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Purchase Links:

Part One:The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster

Part Two: The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm

Part Three: The Kraken King and the Fox’s Den

Part Four: The Kraken King and Inevitable Abduction

By Has

Has is a voracious reader and a geek at heart! She is a fan of most sub-genres of romance and fantasy, but especially loves fantasy and some sci fi. She's currently looking out for historical romances with unusual settings, and fantasy romance, in the vein of Anne Bishop and Elizabeth Vaughan who are on her list of favourite authors. She's also a fan of authors such as Tamora Pierce, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Ann Aguirre, Lisa Kleypas and Nalini Singh. She is always on the look out for new authors and loves the feeling of discovering a brand new author and books she loves.

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