Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tin Swift by Devon Monk

 Monk has written a great second novel in her new Age of Steam series. Some time has actually passed since the end of Cold Iron, and the ragged little band consisting of the Madder brothers, Rose, Cedar, Mae, and Wil, the wolf, have been slowly making their way east from Oregon to Kansas. As we pick up the tale, they are crossing Idaho, past Fort Boise on the way to the Bitteroots. Mae is being driven out of her mind by the geas set upon her by the coven where she grew up to return to them, now that her marriage vow is broken by Jed's death. When they stop in the town of Victory to seek supplies, they find that the entire population has been wiped out, and the bodies multilated.

Cedar senses the presence of one of the fragments of the Holder, as well as the scent of their old "friend" Mr. Shunt, who has made it his mission in what passes for his Strange version of life to harass and kill Cedar and his friends. When they trigger a trap left behind by Shunt, the townsfolk reanimate and attack. In the ensuing battle, the Madder brothers stay behind to battle the zombies, allowing Cedar, Wil, Rose and Mae to make their getaway. Not unscathed, however, as when the trap sprung, Rose was infected with a fragment of the Holder which Shunt left behind, and its evil begins to drain her life force. They must get Mae to the Coven, and get Rose the help she needs.

An odd sort of rescue takes place when Captain Hinks, a glim gatherer with a steam airship at his command, shows up on the scene just in time to rescue the quartet from the zombie horde. Hinks is an undercover U.S. Marshal, working for the president, hunting down corruption in the glim trade. He has an archenemy, General Alabaster, a traitor whom he exposed long ago, and who is now allied with Mr. Shunt and dogging the steps of both Hinks and our adventurers. Cedar and company pick up a few new allies as well, and become acquainted with the league of folks who are also on the trail of the Holder, to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.

We catch a glimpse of the nature of glim,
"Glim, more precious than diamonds or gold, used to power ships on air, water, or land. Used to heal the sick, cure the blights, turn the tide in wars, and make anything and everything stronger and longer lasting. Glim was even rumored to extend a man's life well beyond his years."

We begin to see some hints that although Cedar has always regarded the curse laid on Wil and himself as, well, a curse, the Pawnee gods may have had something else in mind. Cedar and Wil are the only ones who can sense and track the Holder, and they may be destined to save the world, so to speak.

"Cedar's ability to sense the Holder gave him an edge on those others looking for it. Whether his sensitivity to the weapon was a product of the Pawnee curse in his bones, or pure bad luck, he didn't know and didn't care."

"Cedar looked taller, inhuman, like a hunter out of legend, or some kind of warrior of old come to put the land right."

And a little bit of poetry from Monk,

"We all deserve happiness, Rose. Our lives should be filled with it whether the days are dark or sunny. Happiness doesn't beg permission. It just walks across our threshold, sets itself down beside us, and waits for us to notice."

Lots of great action, evil ploys, and even a bit of romance as Cedar and Mae finally admit to their feelings, and other little affairs begin. Since the Holder split in seven pieces at the conclusion of Cold Iron, and were scattered across the country, and Cedar is bound by his promise to the Madders to find them, and given that they find one of the fragments in this book, I'm guessing we have six exciting sequels coming our way.

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