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REVIEW:  The Kraken King Part V-VIII by Meljean Brook

REVIEW: The Kraken King Part V-VIII by Meljean Brook

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Dear Ms. Brook,

The journey we started weeks ago has reached its end, and even after weeks of waiting for this moment, I’m having a hard time saying goodbye. But alas, I’m not a Kraken, so I have to let go, but not before I tell you that, as you can see, this serial was so good that it put me in a cheesy mood.

Anyway, let’s get Kraken (no more puns, I promise!).

I want to be as vague as possible about events from the previous parts as well as what happens in the final four, but I do want to mention that part V opens with a heartbreaking moment of loss for Zenobia that, together with the events of the previous installments, truly sets the course of the story. She realizes that she has to rescue herself regardless of how much she trusts that Ariq or her brother will eventually save her. But she’s unwilling to be a tool to manipulate those who love her, and she wants the choice to be hers. The recklessness of her act doesn’t go unnoticed, but this is ultimately about agency. Besides, she’s so smart and clever, that there’s never a doubt that she will make it. And these things: taking action, fulfilling her dreams of adventure, and seeing the world, are the main part of a character arc in which the romance plays a key role, but it’s not vitally linked to it. Needless to say, Zenobia was my favorite part of the serial.

All the other non-Zenobia things that I liked but that I was too lazy to organize in a more cohesive, traditional review:

  • Ariq is a fabulous hero who complements Zenobia and also shines on his own. His character arc is subtle (perhaps too subtle for my taste) and entirely linked to the romance. Falling in love changes his priorities and shows him things about himself that are good and bad. But love was already a vital part of his character; the love for his brother, his mother, his people, his country, and his new home, are relationships that shaped the man he is and made him a hero worthy of a great heroine.

 

  • They fall in love fast, but Ariq and Zenobia come from different parts of the world and spend most of the time in danger. The cultural differences inform their characters and trigger believable conflict and misunderstandings that are resolved through mature communication. But their complicated and unusual situation makes Zenobia, who is, above all, incredibly pragmatic, particularly cautious, so even if she is irrevocably in love, that doesn’t stop her from having a plan B in case things don’t work out.

 

 

  • And speaking of culture, I love that not only are most of the characters POC, but they are the dominant culture. There is a lot of work put into the history and world of these people, and neither the text nor Zenobia fetishize Ariq’s –or anyone else’s– features. She finds him super hot, of course, because he is big, strong and all-around swoony, but there’s no mention of how exotic he looks, how different he is, or any other charged and problematic language. There are a couple of words in Mongolian, but no long phrases that could end in disaster and send the author to Google Translate jail. Instead, we are told the language they are speaking at the moment and that’s it. I thought that, from my white reader POV, the representation was very well done.

 

  • So. Many. Women. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I kept being surprised by how many characters that I was assuming would be men when first mentioned, turned out to be women. First we have The Twins, two wicked minor characters that delighted me for the short time I got to meet them. And then there’s the Empress and her general, the two most intimidating and fabulous sources of conflict and delicious tension I’ve read in a while. None of them clearly fit the enemy or friend categories, something that speaks more about layered characterization and storytelling than about rigid roles. This brings me to…

 

 

  • …the villains! The Kraken King has two of them, and they have motivations and backgrounds that raise the emotional impact they have on our leads. These are, by far, the best villains this series has seen, and even better, the stakes are actually high. What’s at play here goes beyond the romantic HEA, and even if we can trust that the outcome will be a good one, at times it feels like getting there will be impossible. Seriously, anyone who thinks the promised happy ending makes the genre predictable should read this book.

 

  • And last but not least, The Kraken King is an all-you-can-eat buffet of action, adventure, giant monsters and even bigger robots (kind of, this ain’t Pacific Rim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Rim_(film)), that somehow manage to not get in the way of the main relationship or the political intrigue, because yes, this is about wit as well as strength, and they all come together beautifully during the final climax.

Best,

Brie http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com/.

P.S. I still don’t like serials, but I didn’t have a hard time following yours. I thought the letters at the beginning of each part were a clever “previously on” reminder, and in a way, I’m glad I got to stretch the reading experience.

 

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

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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