Today we have Devon Monk’s 2011 steampunk novel, Dead Iron, the first book in her Age of Steam series.
The story takes place in Hallelujah, Oregon in the late nineteenth century. The town is enjoying prosperity due to the arrival of the railroad that will soon be connecting them to the rest of the country.
However, not everyone is in good spirits. Protagonist Cedar Hunt has been cursed by a Native American god to become a werewolf during the full moon. During his first change he killed his brother (or so be believes) who had been cursed along with him.
Out of guilt, he ventures into self-imposed exile and eventually settles in Hallelujah, where he now hires himself out as a tracker.
One day he hears the son of the local blacksmith has gone missing and he sets off to see if he can find the boy. He soon realizes the disappearance was caused by the Strange: malevolent otherworldly bogeymen who sometimes cause trouble for humans.
In order to track the Strange responsible, Cedar seeks out the help of the enigmatic Madder brothers who are both miners and tinkerers. They agree to provide him with a silver tuning fork which acts as a Strange dowsing rod. In return, though, they demand his help in finding the Holder, a mysterious device in the possession of nefarious railroad baron/dandy Shard LeFel.
Cedar is also approached by local witch Mae Lindson, who wants his help finding the man responsible for her husband’s murder. She claims she can help cure his lycanthropy in return. Although intrigued by her offer, he cannot abandon the missing boy, so he declines. Mae decides to hunt for the murderer on her own, unaware her husband’s death was only the beginning of a sinister plot against both her and the missing boy.
I really enjoyed Dead Iron. It’s a serious page-turner with a strong story and a diverse cast. Werewolves, automatons, witches, Strange and other mysterious supernatural characters will keep you hooked until the explosive and thoroughly satisfying finale. LeFel and his Strange henchmen are particularly intriguing.
I honestly could have kept reading this book all day. Although one scene toward the end tested my suspension of disbelief, on the whole the book is solid and leaves plenty of room for a sequel which Monk has since delivered on.