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REVIEW: The Kraken King Part I-IV by Meljean Brook

Jane’s Note: I asked Brie from Romance Around the Corner if she would be interested in reviewing Meljean Brook’s Kraken King books because I felt like a) I’ve reviewed too many of Brook’s books and b) I kind of consider her a friend. So for transparency purposes it made sense to get someone else to do it. 

Unfortunately Brie couldn’t come up with anything bad to say about these stories. Maybe you’ll have to read them for yourself to see what problems Brie couldn’t spot.

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REVIEW: The Kraken King, Parts I-IV by Meljean Brook

  • The Kraken King Part I: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster
  • The Kraken King Part II: The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm
  • The Kraken King Part III: The Kraken King and the Fox’s Den
  • The Kraken King Part IV: The Kraken King and the Inevitable Abduction

Dear Ms. Brook,

Now that the Guardian series is over, I’m happy to inform that my enthusiasm for your books hasn’t dimmed one bit, which is why The Kraken King was my most anticipated 2014 release. What I didn’t anticipate was that the book would come in serial form, something I’m coming to terms with, and the reason why this review is going to be mostly general and incomplete, because I’ve only read the first four parts and I’m trying to avoid spoilers.

Our heroine is Zenobia, Archimedes Fox’s sister. Archimedes is a famous adventurer who became popular after he started publishing novelized recounts of his travels; books that, unknown to the public, Zenobia writes for him. They are forced to live a lie, because Fox isn’t just an adventurer, and his real identity puts her in constant danger, so she lives a relatively quiet life filled with longing for the adventures that she’s only experienced through her brother’s letters and her imagination.

When Zenobia’s best friend asks her to accompany her to meet her husband halfway across the world, she jumps at the chance to finally go on a trip and do some direct research. She hires two bodyguards to accompany them, and embarks on her first real adventure that doesn’t involve getting kidnapped. And then, of course, everything goes wrong.

Before they reach their destination, the airship they’re traveling on is destroyed by a group of flyers. They are rescued by a man named Ariq, who takes them to a part of Australia known as Krakentown, a place that serves as a refuge for smugglers and revels. Zenobia quickly recognizes Ariq as the infamous rebel known as the Kraken King. She fears that if he finds out who she is, her brother will be in danger, so her plan is to leave town as soon as possible. The problem is that Ariq is torn between how much he likes her and how much he suspects her, so he’s not letting her got that easily, thus Zenobia’s mini adventure goes from planned and safe, to exciting and unpredictable.

In a Steampunk adventure series filled with clever inventions and zombies, the complex, compelling world-building should be its shining point, and still, your heroines are always the one element I keep getting back to. These remarkable women display a wide range of nuanced characteristics that let us know that strength comes in many shapes and forms. Zenobia, who, take my word for it, is simply fabulous, has many compelling and heroic character traits: loyalty, intelligence, self-awareness, patience, and resourcefulness, yet none of those are physical traits. She’s inventive, yes, but she isn’t physically strong. Instead, she relies on her intelligence, creativity and practicality. And when contrasted with larger-than-life Ariq, she never comes across as outmatched, demonstrating that these different forms of strength can be as empowering as the more physical kick-ass women.

And speaking of strength, Ariq, who may or may not have a huge dick, but who is certainly not a huge dick, is an alpha male who escapes labels by the sheer force of his complex characterization. Yes, this guy is the biggest and strongest of them all, but instead of irrational possessiveness, what he feels for Zenobia is awe, admiration, respect, and eventually, love. It’s also great to see a world that until this point had demonized all members of the Mongolian Horde, from the perspective of a Mongolian who rebelled against the cruelty of an empire, but who is, of course, capable of separating the tyrants from the people.

There are so many other things I want to mention, like how Zenobia and her friend are basically the only white characters in the story so far, or how finally this series has a villain that promises to be worthy of its adversaries and not just a weak afterthought added at the end, but this review is already long, and there’s one more praise I want to fit into this gush-fest: The Kraken King also happens to be the most romantic (half) book I’ve read this year.  Zenobia and Ariq don’t spend that much time together, but it’s easy to believe in their potential romance, because what they see in each other is what we see in them. And unless something goes terribly wrong, I think the second half will be just as good, or at least I expect it to be. Parts I, II, III: B+; Part IV: A

Best,

Brie

As a final note for those who enjoy serials (and I guess for those who don’t), I thought the four parts were satisfying and had many elements that made them shine individually, while still working as a cohesive group. I, on the other hand, do not enjoy serials, and as much as I liked what I read so far, I wish I had all the parts (or the willpower to wait), because this fragmented reading experience is not for me.

 

 

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

33 Comments

  1. HelenB
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 11:39:59

    I will be buying these but not reading them until the story is complete. It will be tough but I really really hate serials!

  2. Vi
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 12:08:19

    The only thing bad about the Kraken King is that it’s in serial format. I was fortunate to receive the first 2 installments on NetGalley. Now I must wait impatiently for the rest.

  3. JewelCourt
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 12:15:16

    Count me in as another one who loves Meljean Brook, but hates serials. I’m definitely buying, but not until the entire thing is published.

  4. hapax
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 12:28:45

    Will this be published in print form (and at a reasonable price) once the story is completed? I have a lot of library patrons who enjoy MBs Iron Seas books, but who don’t do digital.

  5. leftcoaster
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 13:13:18

    Another person that despises serials. I refuse. I feel too manipulated to be ok with it. I just wait until something is complete.

    This new (old..hello Mr. Dickens) trend makes me grumpy. I selfishly hope it is just a wacky ebook expt that fails.

  6. Brie
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 13:22:37

    @hapax: Yes, it will be published in print and as a e-bundle later this year (no idea about price, though). The serial only means we get to read the book early, albeit in a different format, although those who read e-books but dislike serials, can always wait until all parts are out to read them at once. I don’t like serials, but in this case, it’s just one more option to choose from. I apologize for not making that clear on the review.

  7. JacquiC
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 13:24:23

    Are there many people out there who like serials? Because count me among those that hate them and in fact, I won’t buy the book until the whole thing is complete. I know there is a venerable tradition of serial novel writing, dating back to Dickens or something, but I just can’t cope with the serial format. Among other things, if I don’t read the book in one block, I’ll read part 1 of the serial, get distracted and read other stuff waiting for part 2 to come out, then get back to part 2 having forgotten details from part 1 and then have to go back to part 1 again. Too annoying. Anecdotally, it seems as if many others feel the same way, and yet serials seem to be undergoing something of a revival. There must be people who like them — but where are they? They don’t seem to be commenting on threads like these…

  8. Sunita
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 13:53:31

    A review from Brie at DA! If I knew how to insert a GIF of Snoopy doing the happy dance, I totally would. Everyone imagine it right now, OK?

    I am not reading the review because I have Vol. 1 sitting on my Kindle right now and I want to read it totally unspoiled. But Jacqui and others wondered if anyone *likes* serials.

    I do. I don’t seek them out, but if someone whose work I like writes one and I think they will handle the format well, then I enjoy reading the format. I reviewed Ginn Hale’s Rifter serial here at DA a few years ago; that’s still a gold standard to me in terms of the serial format, as well as being one of my favorite romance genre stories.

  9. ellie
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 14:01:40

    I hate serials, and will not support them. Shame, Ms. Brooks. I may or may not buy it when complete, I hate this trend so much.

    I think the installments are over-priced, too.

  10. Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 14:04:38

    I dislike serials, too! I did try to give Part 1 a go, but I couldn’t get into it. Wasn’t in the mood at the time, but will probably try again when it’s complete. Love the covers!

  11. Sirius
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 14:10:13

    I did want this one badly so I bought first part, but most likely won’t start till it is completed, because yes, can’t deal with serials. I really really tried, but no. I see Sunita mentioned “Rifter” – even then I waited till it was done and boy that was hard, because Ginn Hale rocks :).

  12. Amy Kathryn
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 14:59:38

    Over on Meljean’s blog she has a explanatory post as to why this book is being published in this manner. I’d link but I do not know html. My paraphrasing is the serial, e-release is essentially an early gift to those who like the format and are willing to pay the price the publisher set. The timeline for the print book was just too far from Riveted for comfort and Meljean and the publisher were trying to get the story out for the fans as soon as they could.

    I am lucky that my library has picked up the Overdrive editions so I can read along as it is released and then pick up the finished book at the end of the year.

  13. Mandy
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 15:32:00

    I hate serials and was disappointed to see it released in this fashion. I’ll be waiting for the real novel to come out, hopefully at a realistic price.

  14. LG
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 16:16:42

    Like others, I can only deal with finished serials, even those by authors I enjoy. I have one author I love who serializes some works for free and then later collects the parts, edits them a bit to make sure they flow well as a whole, and then releases the whole thing as a “for pay” book. I’d rather pay for the finished, complete product than read the parts for free as they’re published online.

    I’m crossing my fingers that this gets released as a single book, because, although I like the stuff by Meljean Brook that I’ve read so far, that’s probably the only way I’ll ever read this.

  15. Renda
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 16:45:06

    @leftcoaster:

    I won’t buy serials, either. I dislike the format and I don’t have the attention span necessary.

    No matter the reasoning behind adopting this format, I find it manipulative.

  16. Brie
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 17:11:26

    Here is the post @Amy Kathryn mentioned. I think it explains everything and answers any doubts people may have about the serial.

    @Mandy: I understand the frustration and the dislike, and I guess that by “real novel” you mean a regular novel as opposed to a serial, but I want to make clear that this and all serials, regardless of how we feel about them, are very real and take as much effort to write as any other novel. In fact, novels, novellas and serials, are all different art forms that take particular sets of skills, so please let’s avoid diminishing them just because they are not to our taste.

    Each part is novella-length, which I think it’s fairly priced at $1.99, but it does add up. Hopefully the bundle e-book and the print version will be cheaper, so more people can have access to it, because buying one novella is not the same as buying eight.

  17. Isobel Carr
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 17:25:17

    Was this purposefully designed and written as a serial, or is a chopped up novel? Her blog makes it sound like the latter, which leads me to wonder why on earth you wouldn’t just release the eBook now and then the paper book later rather than serialize it like this. The explanation just don’t make a lot of sense to me.

  18. Marianne McA
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 17:49:55

    I think it’s the cost rather than the format that is off-putting. It feels like if I spend the first £1.23 I’m committing myself to spending the entire £10, and that’s a lot for a single work. (To compare, the prices of the last four kindle books I bought – Neil Gaiman, Laurie R King, Alyssa Everett and D.L Carter – come to a total of £9.25.)
    I would happily spend that on an author I knew I liked, but it’s not a come-and-try-me price.

  19. Brie
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 18:01:42

    @Isobel Carr: It was designed and written as a serial. On the post I liked to she says: “I can turn in the parts as I finish them — so that Part I and II can be edited and pushed into production while I’m still writing III and IV.”

  20. azteclady
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 19:01:40

    @Brie: On the price bit, I would note that so far all of the Iron Seas novels have come out first in trade format. That, the last I looked, is anywhere from $15 to $17 cover price. If we have eight parts at $1.99 each, that would make the full novel $15.00–well within range (in other words, as “realistically” priced as any other trade paperback release).

    Personally, I don’t care for serials and won’t be trying any new-to-me authors through one; even with authors I unreservedly enjoy–such as Ms Brook–I’ll wait for the full, finished story.

  21. azteclady
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 19:03:30

    @azteclady: Crud. It should read, “that would make the full novel $15.00″

    Apologies for the typo.

  22. azteclady
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 19:14:58

    @azteclady: Okay, I give up. Fifteen dollars and ninety nine cents. Thank you.

  23. Nita
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 19:15:59

    Put me down as another who doesn’t mind serials. It’s not my favorite format, but I’m not disappointed if an author has chosen to publish a story that way and will read each part as they come out.

    I was able to read an arc of the first two parts of this story and found them both lovely. Zenobia’s my girl.

  24. Brie
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 20:32:17

    @azteclady: That is correct, although the e-books are always a bit cheaper, right? At least on Kindle, so if we’re comparing e-serial to e-book, the serial is still a bit more expensive.

    @Nita: Zenobia is my girl too ;-)

  25. azteclady
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 21:58:13

    @Brie: You are right, I forget that I’m in the minority of online commenters who tend to buy more print than e.

  26. SonomaLass
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 00:41:21

    Done well, I think the serial is a wonderful form. I have read a couple of books released through the Kindle serial program, and one was an excellent serial (Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt). I’ve read the first two installments of Meljean’s serial, and I think she has utilized the form really well. Like good series television, each installment has some elements that resolve themselves, while others continue on into the next episode. (It always amuses me that so many people who watch serial television don’t like serial reading experiences.) I like the rhythm that the story has so far, thanks to the serial format — and the fact that the main character writes serials herself gives the whole experience a “meta” dimension that I’m also enjoying.

    I don’t mind if I’m paying a little more to get the series as it is released; I hope the collected e-book will be less than $15.92, for those who choose to wait or who don’t discover the book until the installments have all been released. Just like some people choose to pay to have HBO so they can watch each episode of the Game of Thrones series when newly released, while others wait until the episodes are available to watch in bulk, usually through a cheaper service like Netflix.

  27. Jane
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 07:47:56

    @Brie: Yeah, you can tell this is clearly written for the serial format because of how the parts are structured with a beginning, middle and end. In Nicole Camden’s Fetish Box and Kresley Cole’s The Professional, the parts felt like arbitrarily cut up.

    You’re getting a lot each serial. I think Beth Kery’s installments were two chapters each or around 8,000-10,000 words. Each serial portion is about the size of a novella (20K) and it definitely read like a collection of mini stories.

  28. Sirius
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 09:39:07

    @Brie: Thanks for linking to her post – she says no cliffhangers, except the part before last one, so who knows maybe I will try. More importantly I thought the parts will be coming month apart, but they are only a week apart, so again, maybe I will try. I guess in general I am more peeved with the format – not price. I mean it is more expensive (and I can see that the whole book will be coming eventually), but for the author I like and the series I like, I would not mind. No, in the serial which I last tried in bits and pieces (I was reviewing it so I was comitted to the waiting and boy was I regretting it) it felt like one long story was arbitrarily split up (with some cliffhangers arbitrarily sprinkled on top) in pieces, not as what somebody said happens here (Jane?) – some questions are resolved in one episode, but overarching arc goes till the end.

    If I will be brave enough to start it now (brave only in a sense that I do not want to be annoyed at the format, not that I expect something horrible), I will come back :)

  29. Sirius
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 09:53:21

    @SonomaLass: This is a good point about serial television, except in the recent years I care less and less for the shows which do not have mostly self contained episodes. I eventually end up giving up when say police show becomes soap opera. I want them to investigate crime and solve it in one episode, have less interest in their love lives, etc. But even when I watched/a little bit still watch serial TV, I think there is a very clear answer (for me of course!) as to why I can tolerate that, but hate book serials. There is significantly less emotional involvement going on for me with TV rather than with the books. I would hate the cliffhanger at the end of the season, but I will whine about it maybe for a day or two and then it will be – whatever. Not so much with books. That stays with me.

  30. leftcoaster
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 11:46:25

    @SonomaLass: I don’t watch serial television either, so there you go! In fact, I derive 100% of my entertainment from reading these days, which makes me odd, I know. I’m also someone who compulsively reads the end of a book if I’m in the middle of it and the tension gets to be too much for me. Control and trust issues even when I am guaranteed a HEA? Why yes, thank you.

    The funny part is, I think it’s hardwired. My 4 year old will run from the room or start sobbing if a children’s story gets too intense for him, and his threshold is very low for any conflict or dramatic tension.

  31. Mara
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 19:09:39

    I think I will wait on this, too. I don’t like to immerse myself in a world that’s going to kick me out before the story’s finished (or at least available for me to keep reading.) It’s the same reason I resist when my husband wants to start watching a movie later than eleven. I know we’ll only end up watching the first half of it.

    I need to fall into a book or movie knowing that I can stay wrapped up in it to the end. Serials deprive me of storytelling’s biggest pleasure. No thanks.

  32. Kaetrin
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 21:36:50

    I will wait for the entire book too but in part, that’s because I still have 2 or 3 books of the series to read yet. If I only read a little I could imagine a serial working for me – if I only read a novella a week say, I could stay in the headspace of the series without moving out of it (given that this series will be released weekly). But I don’t. I read 3 or 4 books a week and I prefer to give my full attention to what I’m reading at the time and not dip in and out.

    I’ve become a bit like that when it comes to tv too. We tend to buy entire series’ and watch them in a glom – sometimes it takes weeks to finish but we’re generally not watching any other series at the time either. I don’t watch much tv these days though – some documentaries and sitcoms but most of my time is Twitter and reading! :)

  33. Junne
    Apr 25, 2014 @ 04:27:28

    Sorry, can’t stand serials. Unless they are connected books and every installment has its own satisfying ending ( without a cliffhanger), won’t read it.
    How can I know that the author won’t leave us hanging after x installments?
    Plus, there’s the price issue. Even if they are 1$ each, if there are 12 novels for example, it’s still more expensive than a standalone book.
    Also, my esteem for the author will be diminished quite a bit. I feel like I’m being used as a cash cow.
    Nothing personal against Ms Brook. It’s just how I feel.

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