Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

My Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 4.60 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 4.01 / 5.00

Honoria Todd does her best to provide for her younger siblings, but it has not been easy since her father’s death. He was a scientist working to find a cure for the virus that transforms normal people into Blue Bloods, who gain longer life and greater strength but must regularly drink human blood. When her father was murdered, Honoria found herself a wanted woman desperately struggling to remain hidden whilst trying to earn enough money to keep her family fed. In order to find affordable housing, they are living in the Whitechapel area of London amongst the poorest and most dangerous people in the city.

Blade is a rogue Blue Blood who has broken away from The Echelon that runs the country to carve out his own small kingdom in Whitechapel. There, his word is law and everyone takes great care to avoid his notice. Unfortunately, his viral count is dangerously high and he is showing the first signs of becoming a Fade, a crazed monster that will be hunted down by the other Blue Bloods. Then he hears that a person of great interest is hiding in his rookery and he decides to find out why she is so important.

This title is billed as a both Paranormal Romance and Steampunk, leading me to believe that it might be similar to Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, which I have thoroughly enjoyed (Soulless, Changeless and Blameless). However, it lacks the highly entertaining voice of Ms Carrier’s Alexia and relied much more on standard Romance elements and explicit sex scenes. This left both myself and the book group relatively entertained but not overly impressed.

For once, the depiction of British culture was not too bad, with some interesting ideas on display. The idea that the upper class would actively seek infection with the vampire virus, in order to live longer, seems perfectly reasonable to me. They exploit their position as the ruling class by molding British society to service their need for blood. Taxes are paid in blood donations, which I thought was an interestingly novel approach to the usual problem of blood supply whilst highlighting the Blue Blood’s view of normal human’s as somewhat similar to farm animals. However, the choice to give Rebel a broad cockney accent was a particularly bad one, especially as the author attempted to render his language phonetically. I can only imagine how difficult this made his dialogue for a non-Brit attempting to read it as I struggled to understand some sections. His accent was also very variable, so that it ended up being something akin to the absolutely awful ‘mockney’ accent that Dick Van Dyke offers in Mary Poppins, which is one of the worst attempts at a British accent that I have ever heard. I found that this choice added a barrier to the character and was totally unnecessary.

The world building was one area of the book that caused some problems amongst the book group members. Many were not familiar with Steampunk as a genre and so they were a little confused by some of the elements. However, we all agreed that there was too much description and info dumping, which slowed the story and yet did not describe the world adequately to allow us to visualize it properly. This was a shame because there were many interesting ideas, but it almost seemed like the author was too ambitious in the number of unique elements that she wanted to introduce with this title. It is the first in a series, so some of the detail and ideas could have been postponed until a later volume.

Honoria herself was a fairly admirable heroine, although the insta love and her irresistible animal attraction to Blade made her seem a little to two dimensional and lacking in my eyes. Indeed their whole relationship was far too idealized and moved too quickly for me to take it seriously. I would have preferred a slower burn of sexual tension, possibly lasting through several of the books in the series, but I am aware that Romance titles have to fulfill their quota of sex scenes and stick to the expected format. However, this awareness of genre expectations does not make me any happier about the rather overabundant use of sex in this book. It is not that I dislike reading sex scenes, merely that I expect them to have some relevance to the storyline or character development. In this case they were not engaging and made me want to skip past them, which is never a good sign.

As with Honoria, Blade was a little too stereotypical for me. When it was disclosed that his appalling accent was an assumed part of his disguise as a ‘tough man’ I think I nearly dislocated my eyes by rolling them so hard. Again, I understand that Romance readers like a good rogue who turns out to be a softy at heart, but I would have liked a little more deviation from that trope. This cheapened some of the relationships with his protected underlings because I never felt that he would live up to his blood-curdling reputation. By removing that threat of real menace he was severely reduced as an unexpected hero because it carried no surprise.

On the whole, this was a book that I was happy enough to complete, because I wanted to see where it went, but I have no interest in following the characters any further. They were far too shallow and true to type to hold my interest for long.

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