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Cold Copper: The Age of Steam by Devon Monk
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451418609
Date: 02 July 2013 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Cedar Hunt and his odd band of adventurers have set forth to reclaim the pieces of the arcane Holder--a weapon made up of several metals, each with its own dread power--in order to keep it out of the wrong hands. Now they have come through a terrible blizzard to Des Moines, Iowa--a booming city that hides some horrifying secrets.

In Cold Copper, the latest in Devon Monk's Age of Steam series, our heroes begin deadlocked over how to proceed. The uncanny Madder brothers insist they will not enter Des Moines--yet events (and Cedar's stubbornness) force their hands. Once there, they learn that children have gone missing; honoring an old debt, the Madders promise to find them and will not leave the city until that task is done.

More by Devon Monk:
The Age of Steam:
* Dead Iron
* Tin Swift
* Cold Copper

The problem is, a very old acquaintance of theirs named Killian Vosbrough is now the mayor of Des Moines...and he will not be happy to see them in his city.

With the help of Father Kyne, a Native American converted to Christianity, Cedar and his brother Wil are free to pursue their mission without constraint. They set out to find the Holder's copper element, even as the Madders are jailed on trumped-up charges. What they find is a city linked by copper wires, all of them running back to a set of mysterious generators. With help from a very improbable source, they soon realize something is very wrong here.

Meanwhile, Rose Small decides to set out on her own. She takes a train eastward, meeting the charming Thomas Wicks en route, only to find she hasn't put Captain Hink Cage behind her. When their train is attacked, Rose and Hink find themselves whisked into an all new adventure and running into some old friends in the process.

As he seeks out the Holder, Cedar is sidetracked by the Madders' captivity (which doesn't seem to trouble the brothers in the slightest) and by harm inflicted on Father Kyne. Mae Lindson uses her powers to help, but this might do more harm than good as Cedar's vitality is mysteriously ebbing.

When the scattered friends are reunited, the true horrors of Des Moines are revealed and an impossible alliance must be forged. Unless Cedar extends trust despite everything his instincts tell him, the enterprise to find and secure the Holder might come to an end in the snowy streets of an Iowa boom town, with an abomination of science and alchemy to seal the deal.

Monk's newest novel propels the steampunk-and-sorcery narrative into all new territory, and sets up the next part skillfully with a handful of well-placed loose threads. Cedar's "curse" is less of a factor, for a few reasons, and Wil spends more time in human skin than previously; his wonderment at having hands again--for more than a day or so each month--is almost childlike and appealing. Rose Small spends less time devising, but she's more than ever a plucky and independent young lady--and there are some intriguing developments in her life as well.

On the other side, Vosbrough is a smooth and capable villain, a filthy rich man who owns the politics and the law of his city. He has very ambitious schemes, with some subtle connections to other parts of Monk's series. He nicely and neatly escalates the dangers facing Cedar and his troop, as a well-devised series should.

Falling into the improbable space of steampunk-fantasy-Old West tale, Devon Monk's third book in the Age of Steam series is a winner on all counts.

Recommended.

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