Reviewed by Ambrea
Honoria Todd grew up in the shadow of blue blood society. Daughter to a famous inventor, she was privy to many of the secrets the ruling vampire class would prefer to keep secret—and that may very well be her undoing. When her father is killed and one of the dukes of the Ivory Tower puts a price on her head, Honoria has no choice but to hide herself and her siblings in Whitechapel in the hopes that the blue bloods—and the diabolical master of the rookeries—won’t notice her.
I was intrigued by this novel and, starting out, I fell in love with the unusual, complex world of verwulfen, blue bloods, vampires, and mechanical creatures. There’s an unexpected depth to this story. I mean, on one side are the blue bloods—not quite vampires, not quite human—who basically run society from their Ivory Tower, trailed by human consorts and blood thralls; and then, on the other side, one finds verwulfen (werewolves), humans, and others who live outside the blue bloods’ pristine city, living on the very fringes of “respectable” society.
Except it’s not that clear cut.
Blade, said diabolical master of the rookeries, rules Whitechapel, and even the Dukes of the Ivory Tower are hesitant to cross him. Honoria is one of the many humans caught in between, but she’s also the daughter of an Institute scientist and a chemist in her own right. Humans, blue bloods, verwulfen, and more living together in one city, but it’s a tenuous relationship at best. A variety of variables come into play: blood taxes, drainers, Humanity First insurgents, house rivalries, Slasher gangs and turf wars, and Queen Alexandra, thrall of the Prince Consort. It all hinges on how far one wants to push the boundaries, because anything could tip the balance and bring London—and Britain—crashing to its knees.
I found all the detail fascinating and, honestly, I wish I could have had more. Like I was curious to hear about France, which endured a completely different Reign of Terror in which blue blood aristocracy were put to the guillotine; Spain suffered a second Inquisition, in which blue bloods were hunted rather than witches or religious dissidents; Germany didn’t have so much a blue blood ruling class as a massive verwulfen population; China saw the initial outbreak of the craving disease, the first symptoms of vampirism; and America is still a colony of the British Empire.
It’s a curious reworking of historical events that I found captivating. And that’s not even including a close look at the precarious situation of the Fade and the course of the craving disease. Blue bloods are vampires, as we traditionally view them; however, it’s different in Kiss of Steel. Blue bloods are in control of their hunger (for the most part), but as they age they come closer and closer to the Fade, in which they slowly lose all human aspects and slip closer to an unstoppable, insatiable hunger for blood. They essentially begin to rot, losing all traces of the person they were previously and they become monsters—they become vampires. It was a fascinating concept.
However, despite enjoying Kiss of Steel immensely, I realize that it could have been better. Like so much better.
I love a little romance mixed in with my adventure stories, but I like to have more of a balance. That is, I don’t like romantic entanglements to overshadow the rest of the novel. I may like romance novels, but I do like my stories to have depth, rather than lots of awkwardly steamy moments or gratuitous amounts of explicit material.
Like with Blade and Honoria.
I understand these moments are going to happen, considering how desperately they crave each other. I mean, their relationship is practically incendiary. But I would have liked to have learned a little more about Honoria’s father, her time among the blue bloods, and their shared experiments in the Institute labs. Honoria is a smart girl; in fact, she’s frighteningly smart in some respects—and, personally, I would have loved seeing her flaunt that intelligence a little more. I would have enjoyed seeing her continue her father’s research, seeing her find, if not a cure, a way to stop the progression of the craving disease.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s a pretty great character. She’s smart, she’s determined, she’s handy with a pistol, plus—and this is a big one—she’s not some shrinking violet, damsel-in-distress type when faced with danger. Before the end of the story, she’ll face down a fully turned vampire not once, not twice, not even three, but four times. She may not be a swift and skilled as Blade, and she might not be as strong as her verwulfen companion, Will, but that’s not to say she’s not powerful in her own right.
I just had this little, lingering wish that she could have done more. I know that sounds funny, considering she does quite a lot in regards to protecting her brother and sister, and she even saves Blade’s life on a couple of occasions. I just wish she could have been featured more prominently in the search for a cure or, at least, a treatment, rather than her intellectual pursuits becoming secondary. I wish I could have learned more about it and a little more about her.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Kiss of Steel. It’s a blending of science fiction, paranormal, steampunk, horror, and fantasy, and it develops an intriguing story—an intriguing world—that kept me captivated. Once I was hooked, I found there was no going back. I had to find out what happened with Honoria and Blade—would she be captured by Vickers, Duke of Lannister, and killed? Would she find a cure that her father had so desperately sought? Would Blade, who lurked on the fringes of the Fade, finally succumb?
I had to have an answer and I was, more or less, satisfied with the conclusion. Granted, it’s only the first of a series—book one of five (Heart of Iron, follows next, and then My Lady Quicksilver, Forged by Desire, and Of Silk and Steam)—so I have quite a bit more to read if I want to shore up the story and delve a little deeper into this steam-powered world of dangerous creatures.