Desert Isle Keeper
The dystopian world of the Iron Seas series thrives in this third installment featuring the stoker on an airship and a scientist studying volcanoes who face an evil genius on the treacherously cold plains of Iceland.
Both Annika and David are on quests: she to find her sister Källa and he to fulfill his dying mother’s last request. Fortunately, these quests intersect, so they meet and immediately click. It’s also unfortunate these quests intersect because they run contrary to each other.
For the four years Annika has been stoking the engine on the Phateon, she has been placing advertisements in port newspapers where they stop asking for news about Källa, but as the book opens, so far she’s had no replies. Annika, for all her quiet demeanor and reticence, loves exotic fabrics and ribbons, and buys them in great quantities in her travels, making a colorful and exotic wardrobe with them.
What catches David’s attention, however, is her accent – which is like that of his mother’s, an accent he hasn’t heard since she died and left her runes to be buried in her homeland. Neither David nor his father knew where that homeland might be which is why he’s so excited to meet Annika.
But when he tells her about his promise, although she’s sympathetic, she says she can’t tell him where her home is. She’s protecting the community of women in Iceland who live there. In order to ward off people who might want to harm them (since many are lesbians and have been severely punished before they moved to the community), the women have spread tales of witches and trolls who inhabit the island and harm visitors. David, however, is traveling to Iceland to study the volcanoes there, not knowing how close he will be to his mother’s people. When she hears his plans, Annika fears for the community’s safety.
Despite all the problems that separate them, Annika and David feel the pull of attraction. David is stunned by this because he is infected by nanoagents that make many people shun him. In addition, he has mechanical legs, one mechanical hand, and a series of optics replacing one eye, all of which have put off women in the past. Therefore, he thinks of himself as unlovable. He’s the quintessential scarred hero.
Since Annika doesn’t have any social graces and is shy, she also thinks she won’t find the love she longs for. She thought at one time her best friend would end up her lover, but that didn’t come about. And since she’s not had experience with men, she’s never really considered one as a partner.
Brook skillfully and gradually brings these two together through a rip-roaring adventure that I found even more exciting and thoughtful than my favorite Iron Seas novel, the first one, The Iron Duke. As with the first book, I loved Brook’s world building and ability to turn alien characters into believable and loveable ones. I’m definitely awaiting the next installment in the series, The Kraken King.