The Kraken King is the latest installment in Brook’s Iron Seas series; a series that I’ve enjoyed immensely so far. Unfortunately, I have to admit that The Kraken King is my least favourite book in the series to date. Originally published as a serial (a method I am not fond of), this book was long, and in all honesty, I struggled to get through it. The pacing in this book was slow and I personally felt that events were dragged out and felt repetitive. As soon as you thought something was resolved, it quickly became a problem once again in the next part. Ultimately, the book was an okay read, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I don’t think it will win any new fans to the series, but I think fans of The Iron Seas will be committed to reading it (as I was).
Zenobia Fox, sister of adventurer Archimedes Fox, is tired of simply writing about her brother’s adventures; she wants an adventure of her own. When she decides to accompany her friend on a voyage, she doesn’t expect anything terribly adventurous to happen, her friend is entirely proper; however, that doesn’t stop adventure from finding her. When their airship is attacked, Zenobia finds herself stranded in Krakentown and intrigued by the handsome governor, Ariq, a man that knew her brother when he was also a smuggler. Zenobia must protect her true identity AT ALL COSTS!
Ariq, better known as the the Kraken King, is a former smuggler and thief. He has fought for his people’s freedom and works hard to ensure that his small community gets to keep their independence. When he first meets Zenobia he is intrigued by her and feels that she is the one, if only he didn’t have a sneaky suspicion that she was a spy, and a bad one at that. He must find out all her secrets AT ALL COSTS! Misunderstandings ensue and adventure then abounds, it just wasn’t as exciting as I hoped that it would be. The Kraken King had all the elements to make this an awesome story: monsters, flying machines, spies, and romance. What’s not love here? For me, all of these elements did not come together to create a dynamic story, instead I found myself continually checking the table of contents wondering when this story would end. What frustrated me the most was the repetition of the same problem over and over again. In one part the problem would seemingly be resolved: Zenobia would finally start to trust Ariq. Then, in the next part, Ariq would mistrust Zenobia. Then it would switch again. The same problems that this romantic duo had were slammed home in each part of the book and it didn’t work for me; it got old real fast and left me thinking that the book was longer than it actually was.
Originally, The Kraken King was published as a serial novel, so I think that my impression of a lengthier novel is due, in part, to the fact that I read it as a whole and not as a serial. Perhaps had I waited for each installment I would have not felt that each part was repetitive. But, as it is, I did read The Kraken King as a novel, and as a novel, I didn’t find it particularly memorable despite the amount of action and character development that was going on here. Each part just seemed too similar and I was left feeling bored rather than engaged.
What I also wasn’t as fond of was the romance. I was so excited to read Zenobia’s story. A writer heroine, how cool? Pair this particular young woman with a former smuggler, a great recipe for a romance! Like the plot, I thought the romance also fell flat. The basis of the romance depended on an instant attraction between Zenobia and Ariq, and it’s pretty quick to develop into love, despite the fact that these two don’t really know one another very well. Ariq in particular was quick to label his feelings love based on minimal interaction with Zenobia. The idea of love at first sight is not one that appeals to me and in The Kraken King this idea was the foundation of their romance. For me, what would have made the romance stronger would have been if Zenobia and Ariq actually got to know one another, but I never really got that sense of development in the novel. It felt like a superficial romance plot, and one that didn’t really grab my attention.
I really wanted to be wowed by The Kraken King, as it was a book that I’ve been anticipating for ages. It’s always disappointing when a book you’re excited for falls flat. The repetitive structure and the lackluster romance didn’t work for me, but I’m not ready to give up on this series just yet.
If you enjoyed the set up of innocent spinster and unrepentant rogue, give Bec McMaster’s Kiss of Steel a Try. It’s another steampunk book and I think the hero and heroine (Blade and Honoria) will appeal to fans of the romance in The Kraken King. The pacing in Kiss of Steel is much faster, which was my biggest disappointment in The Kraken King.
In an effort to make a recommendation that will fit with the elements that I didn’t love about The Kraken King, I’d recommend Christine D’Abo’s Gilded Hearts. Again, this is a steampunk romance, but I think the tension and back-and-forth between the hero and heroine here will appeal to fans of the romance in The Kraken King.
If you’re looking for a bit more airship adventuring, I’d recommend Zoe Archer’s Skies of Fire. It’s got the same focus on adventure and intrigue that’s balanced out with romance.