Penguin / September 4, 2012 / $10.98 print, $9.99 digital
A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.
Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home . . . but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard.
Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam . . .
Riveted is the latest installment in Meljean Brook’s Steampunk series, The Iron Seas. So far we have traveled the seas with The Iron Duke and the sky with Heart of Steel, but this time the action takes us all the way to Iceland. And with a heroine like Annika as guide and companion, we’re guaranteed a fantastic adventure.
Annika’s mother rescued her from the streets and brought her to her small, remote village. She grew up loved and full of dreams. Those dreams got her in trouble more than once and won her a bit of a reputation—she’s known as Annika the Rabbit who hides from trouble, and Annika the Shepherdess because she spends the time woolgathering. What she never imagined was that one day those dreams of adventure would come true when circumstances forced her to leave the village in search of her sister.
Four years later, Annika still has no clue of her sister’s whereabouts. And although crewing on an airship has allowed her to see part of the world, she’s homesick and lonely. She’s an outsider. Growing up isolated meant that she doesn’t know the rules of society and people judge her by the way she dresses and the color of her skin. But when she meets David, another outsider, she finds a place to belong and more adventure than she bargained for.
I’m being purposely vague because part of the fun is discovering the plot’s twists and turns, as well as the characters and their secrets. Believe me, this is a reading experience you don’t want ruined. What I can tell you is that like Annika, the book is full of heart and surprises. I was just as delighted by the story as I was by its heroine.
Annika is a bit naïve, but her ability to take care of herself is never in doubt. She’s also self-aware enough to know when to ask for help; honest to admit when she’s afraid; and courageous to take action despite her fears. She’s open, fiercely protective and loyal. But most importantly, she hasn’t lost the ability to be amazed by what the world has to offer. When she meets David, whose scarred face and modified body make children cry and women repulsed, she’s fascinated by him and all she sees is beauty:
Pale scars raked the left side of his face, with several wide, ragged stripes running diagonally from forehead to cheek. Oh! And that was not a monocle at all, but some sort of optical contraption that had been embedded into his temple, which shielded his left eye with a dark, reflective lens.
Utterly marvelous. What could he see through that?
She wants to fall in love and won’t settle for less:
“What I told you is true—I want to love someone first. Man or woman, I don’t care. I want to feel as if my guts are riveted together, to feel as if I would do anything just for a kiss, or a touch, or to see them. I want to feel as if I can’t live without them, and if I have to…if I have to live without them, I want to feel as if every moment I had with them was worth a lifetime of love. And I want to be loved that way in return.”
It’s impossible not to feel compelled by her passion. And spending time in her company was an absolute joy.
Meljean Brook excels at many things: world building, adventure, romance. But what makes it all come together to create truly wonderful stories are her characters. Annika is a great heroine in a story that perfectly balances romance and action. The title is very fitting because everything about the book is riveting.