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Literature / Age of Steam

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The Age of Steam novels by Devon Monk are a series that combines Weird West and Steampunk. The series looks to be orphaned, with the third novel having come out in 2013 and leaving the series unfinished.

In a version of the American wild west where steampunk contraptions, automatons, and genius inventors exist along side the supernatural, Cedar Hunt is a werewolf. He and his brother were cursed by a Pawnee god to transform into wolves and destroy the Strange— the malevolent, otherworldly creatures that seek to tear the mortal world apart. Unfortunately, Cedar has no control over his violent wolf-self, and after a disastrous first shift, he fears his brother may be lost for good.

On his quest to find both his brother and some way to remove his curse, Cedar runs across the Madder brothers, three eccentric miners who know more about the Strange than they let on and who insist Cedar help them hunt down powerful objects called Holders. Along the way, Cedar and the Madders also join up with Mae Lindson, a witch who's afraid of using her powers and who has come to the attention of the Strange, and Rose Small, a young woman with a knack for gadgetry and a mysterious past.

  • Dead Iron (2011)
  • Tin Swift (2012)
  • Cold Copper (2013)

Tropes featured in this work include:

  • Anxiety Dreams: In Dead Iron, LeFel does not sleep because he will only dream of dying, which is near.
  • Back from the Dead: In Dead Iron, Jeb Lindson has already come back twice at the beginning. LeFel invokes the Rule of Three to argue that he should stay dead this time.
  • Black Magic: In Dead Iron, Mae's magic twists to this and causes pain. She uses great care to use it only beneficially—keeping out vermin—and laboriously learned to undo curses and other dark bindings.
  • The Blacksmith: In the first novel, Rose is aided by the local blacksmith to develop her knack for gadgetry, despite her parents' prohibiting her from learning.
  • Blood Magic: LeFel uses blood magic to bring his strange-powered matics to life. His main goal in Dead Iron is to use blood magic and human sacrifice to open a way back to his dimension.
  • Blow You Away: In Dead Iron, Cedar's arrival at the mine is announced by dust devils that form without any wind.
  • Children Are Special: Part of LaFel's plan involves the sacrifice of a child, as children's ability to dream is exceptionally potent for working some magic.
  • Color-Coded Eyes: In Dead Iron, Wil's eyes are still copper even in wolf form. The precise color is not so significant as what it shows about Wil's ability to keep his human mind in wolf form.
  • Cue the Sun: In Dead Iron, the sun comes from behind the clouds just as Mae sets out to the Madder brothers'. She takes it as a good omen.
  • Curse: Cedar and Wil were cursed with lycanthropy by "a Pawnee god" to hunt down the strange.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: In Dead Iron, Cedar's brother Wil dragged him west after the loss of his wife and children. Then they went on the wrong land and were cursed into werewolf form. Cedar came to find himself at the end of a bloody trail, and backtracked to find his brother's wolf corpse, its throat torn out by himself.
  • The Drifter: Cedar had been a scholar at university before the death of his wife and daughter. After coming west, becoming cursed, and losing his brother, Cedar has become a wanderer, roaming town to town to find some way to break his curse (or at least do some good with it).
  • Doorstop Baby: Rose Small was found by her adoptive parents in a basket. Part of the reason why she never fit in with her home town is because she has some kind of hereditary gift for gadgetry.
  • The Exile: LeFel is one of The Fair Folk who was banished from his homeland for murdering members of his royal family.
  • The Eyes Have It: In Dead Iron, a room of Strangework matics is absolutely still, except for eyes following LeFel and Mr. Shunt.
  • The Fair Folk: LeFel is some kind of elven nobility who was banished to the mortal world. He has a limited amount of time to find a way back to The Land Of Faerie before he dies like a mortal.
  • Forced Transformation: In Dead Iron, Cedar's brother Wil was permanently turned into a wolf—with, fortunately, his own mind—as opposed to Cedar's Involuntary Shapeshifter.
  • A Friend in Need: In Dead Iron, when Rose is thrown out of the meeting where the Witch Hunt is started, she resolves that nothing can stop her from helping Mae.
  • Good Samaritan: Cedar goes to hunt down a lost child despite the treatment he gets in the town.
  • Green Thumb: In Dead Iron, Rose can hear plants talk. She tries to ignore it; wearing her Orphan's Plot Trinket helps.
  • Human Sacrifice: In Dead Iron, LeFel has long searched for the three humans he must sacrifice for his Cool Gate: a witch, a child, and a man with a curse.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Cedar cannot control his transformation. It always happens at the full moon, and when it does, he becomes a violent and bloodthirsty beast.
  • Insubstantial Ingredients: Played with in Dead Iron, Alun Madder talks of spoons made of moonlight — and Cedar says his gun is made with pain.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: In Dead Iron, Rose Small's backstory was being abandoned on the step of her adoptive parents' home.
  • Must Be Invited: In Dead Iron, Mae explicitly refuses permission to enter her home, though the effect appears to be more her spells than the refusal.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: When Rose was left on the Small's doorstep as an infant, she was given a device that may be related to some ancient magical family line.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: In Dead Iron, Cedar, under a curse, changes by the full moon and loses his mind, requiring him to chain himself. He pays quite dearly for a collar that lets him keep his right mind. Later we learn his brother Wil is still alive and also under a curse, but while Cedar only changes during the full moon, Wil is permanently a wolf, and fortunately, can control himself all the time when not actively bespelled by LeFel.
  • Power of Love: In Dead Iron, LeFel has to kill Jeb because otherwise his and Mae's love would protect her.
  • Rule of Three: In Dead Iron, LeFel tries to invoke this on Jeb Lindson — he shouldn't have to kill him more than three times.
  • Something about a Rose: In Cold Copper, Captain Hink had given Rose a wallpaper rose, folded paper and perfumed. She had kissed him — more than once — because of it.
  • Witch Hunt: LeFel needs to sacrifice a witch for his plan to work, so he blames Mae for all the crimes he's done to the town, stirring up the locals to form a mob and flush her out of hiding.

Alternative Title(s): Dead Iron, Tin Swift, Cold Copper