The Iron Crown by M.A. Grant

The Iron Crown by M.A. Grant

This is the third in a tightly woven series where the events overlap to create a beautiful tapestry founded in Celtic myth yet with elements all its own. Each novel is a gay romance where troubles in the fae world impinge on the relationships. This connection makes everything more complicated in some ways, but in others, moves fate and circumstance to bring the lovers together.

Part of what fascinates me, and why I’m speaking first on the series as a whole, is how each novel is unique. It’s not just the characters, but the circumstances and the challenges they face while moving the overall plot forward. This is never truer than with Lugh and Keiran, the youngest son of Queen Mab and a Viking child rescued from his destroyed village in the wake of the last great fae war.

Unlike the other novels, theirs is not a new connection. Instead, they’ve grown up together, fought, raced, and celebrated together for most of Keiran’s extended human life. The connection between them vibrates off the page from the first mention, though they each believe their relationship is platonic. It shows in casual touches, how Lugh leans into Keir’s strength, and their silent communication no one else shares.

The two of them are a puzzle. Lugh has no faith in his magic and believes everyone would reject him if they knew the truth of it. This belief weighs on him, eating through his confidence and setting him apart when all he wants is to be close. He sees his abilities as a sign of weakness when they show his enduring strength.

Keir knows he’s there only because of Queen Mab’s reluctant consent, a tool to protect Lugh when she cannot understand what drives her youngest son away. This poisons his self-confidence and makes him discount all the ways the fae of the Wylds honor him as The Horned God’s Poet. He has earned his place in the Wylds and the Wild Hunt by his own measure.

Don’t let those descriptions make you think either spend their time bemoaning, though. They take on the world to protect their chosen family and home. While Roark’s and Slaine’s stories could possibly be read in either order, it’s Keir and Lugh who culminate the greater tale, and in a way that makes sense while being unpredictable. Just as they grow in their relationship, their connection with the world and their people grows in this novel. They change from adventurers with a purpose to an integral part of the Sluagh and balance from a direction none expected.

It’s a powerful story on a personal and larger scale. There were moments when my breath caught and tears threatened, not always grieving ones either. What binds Lugh and Keir together is also what holds them apart. There are both closed- and open-door intimacies as the romance fulfills its happy promise, but not everything resolves so cheerfully.

I found the way each story had a lesson to teach about perception fascinating as well. We learn of Slaine first from Roark, with his limited understanding of events creating a tainted impression, but Lugh is different. The facts of his actions are correct. It’s the why neither brothers nor mother can see that changes everything about those actions. I was not looking forward to Lugh’s tale, though I should have known better after reading Slaine’s. Now, I consider it my favorite in many ways. The unseelie princes are so very different and their relationships equally varied.

As must be clear by now, I enjoyed the series and this book very much. Stop reading me talking about it and try the series yourself. It’s creative fantasy, believable romance, and has a powerful moment or ten that I suspect will linger.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 206: Rube Goldberg Machines

My son, who knows how much I enjoy a good Rube Goldberg machine, sent me the link to this video, and I just had to share. If you enjoy things like the board game Mouse Trap or the many digital equivalents, this will blow you away. While a sign of far too much time on their hands, it’s inventive, an excellent use of specialized and general materials, and an act of stunning creativity and simple physics.

Have fun getting lemonade the hard way. May it give you creative ideas for this time of social distancing.

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5 Interesting Links for 04-03-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Just for Fun (Entertainment)

While I’m not one to follow many sports, I found this marble race entertaining for more than the track’s construction, which beyond elevation to produce momentum, mimics a car race track. What makes this compelling is how successfully the voiceover evokes the urgency I’ve felt watching car races. It’s a wonderful example of how tone can make a mundane moment into one filled with tension. I was rooting for the winner, but there were times when I despaired. (Via Tau Press, LTD)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55iTYdRDG4s

Business (Advice)

Entrepreneur Daymond John offers advice about starting your own business, focused largely on the older set but with relevant tips for any new business, including self-publishing.
https://www.aarp.org/work/small-business/info-2019/daymond-john-entrepeneur-advice.html

Interesting People (History)

Esther Pohl, an obstetrician in early 1900s Portland, Oregon, organized the media, government, and public in a successful effort to prevent a bubonic plague outbreak when it swept the West Coast port cities in 1907. She used her own experiences and scientific knowledge rather than racializing the disease as others did.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-pioneering-woman-health-officer-saved-portland-plague-180974499/

Astronomy (Asteroids)

A newfound asteroid, running close to Earth, offered surprises once examined using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. While initially targeted as a potential danger, it passed far enough to pose no threat.
https://www.livescience.com/near-earth-binary-asteroid-2020-bx12-has-moon.html

Health (Tips)

Live Science offered tips for managing colds and flus in 2017 that are still relevant. Many apply to protecting yourself from COVID-19 as well, but not all of them. Wearing a surgical mask will not protect you because the virus is too small, but it may keep your loved ones safe if you get infected. The other tips are general cleanliness and the like that will serve you well any year.
https://www.livescience.com/60166-avoid-cold-flu-this-year.html

Becoming Home, Foster's Way Book 1

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Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

This book is a cross between a Victorian Era romance in tone and steampunk in world. It is delightful, and I regret waiting so long to read it after I purchased a box set of the first four books on the recommendation of a friend. I have only read the first book so far, and the series feels more like an epic broken into parts than something where each stands wholly on its own. At the same time, this book contains a full story arc. Lady Claire’s circumstances undergo a radical change from the sheltered schoolgirl she is in the beginning, with dreams of convincing her father to send her to university rather than finding a husband on the marriage mart as society expects.

The beginning is well written, introducing the main character, Claire, along with what type of person she is and whom she chooses to befriend. It then gives us a clear look at her hopes and dreams, expanding that picture further and drawing the reader into her inner thoughts. We see how this society is similar to, and different from, traditional Victorian romances like those penned by Georgette Heyer. For all she’s in a finishing school that teaches young ladies their household duties, Claire prefers the classes in the sciences, especially chemistry.

The book also has much in common with the historical fiction from that era I enjoy with its attention to the blissful ignorance of the wealthy and the squalor of the poor. We learn about both the Royal Society of Engineers and an effort to push Britain to a combustion engine over steam, a tension in technology as well as society, and one with economic consequences.

The narrative tone is an overblown internal monologue much of the time, appropriate to the period and the main character. I found it delightful, and informative, along with enjoying Claire’s absorption with machinery and the practice of experimental science.

Possibly because I’m both a steampunk and Victorian Era literature fan, there are many humorous moments that poke fun at the deviations from our timeline, all without breaking the narrative stride. At the same time, the book remains true to the change in wealth from land-based to technology, with the added problems of failed investments rocking the traditional foundations of power. Speaking of the writing, the seeding of seemingly random events or information is well done. Some (but not all) of them become important, and we remember how Claire came to be knowledgeable when it would otherwise seem unlikely.

I failed to recognize the significance of James Selwyn until he is revealed again with his business partner, Andrew Malvern. I find this funny because I had the same reaction to how James met Claire that he did. My note reads, “She is accidentally an original” at that point, my attention drawn just as pointedly as his. This is both a similarity to the romance style and a difference because Claire remains oblivious to her effect and no one is there to point it out to her.

By virtue of having the viewpoint when no one else is present, Andrew makes up the third piece of the triangle from the start. I want to say more about Andrew, an engineer, and James, his idea and money man, but cannot for fear of spoilers. You’ll have to be happy with knowing only they have important parts to play.

The story takes a darker turn toward the end of the first quarter as her fortunes change, but Claire is not one to take things lying down. While the beginning is critical to set everything up and introduce key players, here is where her true story begins, and the book gets its title. However, I checked the blurb and key things are not mentioned there, so I will do the same. I’ll say only her nature meets the upheaval of London head-on. She makes mistakes, but she’s not one to wallow, and by the end, has brought us to a satisfying conclusion of book one’s plot arc while opening a hunger for more, of which there is plenty (I checked).

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 205: Automobile History

A little bit of mechanism and a lot of history in this short video profiling the oldest car still street legal in Germany, an 1894 Benz Victoria.

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