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.
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
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.