I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.House Immortal by Devon Monk
This urban fantasy was published by ROC on September 2, 2014 and has 350 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
Other books by this author include Dead Iron, Tin Swift, Hell Bent, Magic to the Bone, Magic in the Blood, Magic in the Shadows, Magic on the Storm, Magic at the Gate, Magic on the Hunt, Magic on the Line, Magic Without Mercy, Stone Cold, Magic for a Price, Cold Copper, Infinity Bell
First in the House Immortal futuristic steampunk series revolving around Matilda Case, a galvanized girl struggling to save the farm, her grandmother, her world in the year 2210. Be warned, while I think Monk intended this as an adult story, it reads more like young adult.
Okay, Monk grabbed me right off. First that hot cup of tea to start the morning off right followed by “the feral beast to die the first time she stabbed it in the brain”. Now, if that don’t catch yer attention, I don’t know what will.
It’s a crazy — nasty — world that Monk has created. A world ruled by eleven Houses, a greedy, power-crazed bunch who use the twelve galvanized as hired muscle. When they’re not cutting off arms and legs, removing organs, and more just to see what happens to the galvanized. It is also a colorful world. One that is split into sections of the color wheel; I keep trying to imagine the streets filled with people who are all one color or another. Little flocks of greens sliding by herds of gray, moving warily past the men in black who get patched up by a dose of white, and in turn receive comfort from a converting of purple.
The most egregious part of this series is how the world works. A world without laws except what the head of your House decrees. One where you have to claim a House or any House can take you. And I do mean take, you won’t have a choice. Abraham is telling Tilly that if her papers are not in order, any House will simply take her, her grandmother, her farm, everything, that some House will come out and forcibly take away her family farm. There is no recourse unless you are registered with a “legit” House. Who owns your land.
I do get confused about the Houses and when and why they rose. Monk led me to think they have been around for eons, that they were the instigators of what was done to the galvanized because the galvanized rebelled against their torturers (well, this world is torturous, so I think my confusion is reasonable). There is mention of the instability of resources which led to the Uprising ending, and then there’s an epigram from L.U.C. about everything collapsing and that the Houses rose from that. Yep, I’m definitely confused. Okay, later, there’s mention of the Restructure that put the world under House Rule, which kicked off the downfall, and then the Uprising. I dunno. I’m hoping the next in the series will help make this clear.
For the rest, it’s a weird mixture of 1984 and Brave New World with the repression of The Hunger Games (the scene that introduces the formal Gathering with its “heroic” video of the various galvanized saving people, buildings, etc.), the mercilessness of Howey’s Wool series while all that talk of Houses kept dragging me back to Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series. The steampunk comes from the stitched, and it implies science fiction, which is perfect with this dystopian story of advanced tech and backwoods survival.
There are a lot of loose threads in this. Quinten is supposedly “owned” by House Gray which loans him out to various other Houses, so wouldn’t Gray keep an eye on their assets? Wouldn’t they wonder why Quinten hasn’t returned? As for that peace treaty? Hah. It claims that House Brown would be left alone, but that’s not true at all. Brown members are used and abused constantly. Even Abraham says that being House Brown means you have no rights, benefits, pay, or legal voice.
There’s a lot of “talk” about the heat being generated between Abraham and Tilly, but it’s all tell.
The tension is way up there as it doesn’t follow any standard expectations. I have no guidelines, no ideas of how Monk’s very unknown world operates.
On one hand, people are terrified of the galvanized, and on the other, they’re treated like celebrities.
All the galvanized are each “owned” by a House, and yet when Slater summons Abraham (who is with House Gray), Abraham claims he has no choice and MUST answer that summons. I’d tell ’em to stick it up where the sun don’t shine. I can see each galvanized racing at a summons from the House that owns it, but no. This doesn’t work for me. Maybe I simply don’t understand enough about how this world works.
Then we get into the stupid tropes. On, brother. You get to thinking Matilda is a smart girl. Then she’s refusing to wear House Gray colors even though she knows perfectly well that House Gray members wear gray. She’s terrified about how she’ll be treated, etc., since she is technically galvanized as well. She can be owned, enslaved, etc. The Houses all want her, desperately. So, what does she do on her first morning in the big city? Yep, she heads outside to grab a cup of coffee. *eye roll* … *ooh, ouch, that hurt*
She slaps out at heads of Houses — which I thoroughly appreciate — as if she has no idea how this world works, how they’ll treat a woman they see as property and not human. And she jumps right off the cliff time after time. Yet, if she’s been the eyes and ears for House Brown all this time, constantly eavesdropping on the world to know what the Houses are up to and how their alliances are shifting, how can she not know? Monk hasn’t taken the time to think this through. She simply has Matilda being all rebellious and “brave” when all I can see is how stupid she’s being in not learning everything she can, so that she can survive all this. Hmmm, shades of Allie Beckstrom begone!
She’s just been “discovered” and they expect her to participate in games and know all their customs. Overnight. What’s with that? Why should she prove she’s galvanized? Seems to me that being considered a galvanized is bad news.
I suspect that Monk is trying for suspense with the confusion over Tilly’s mother. The message that’s received with Mom feeling desperate about saving her husband and daughter. No word about Quinten. But Tilly saw her parents murdered…so, yep, I’m confused. Again. Or is that still?
Right after she makes the deal, Neds hugs her, skin-on-skin. So, didn’t he read her mind? Couldn’t he have done something to stop it?
And yet, I am intrigued by this nasty world, with learning more about the experiment, with discovering how the “intrepid” Matilda saves the world. Well, that and I do like that Welton Yellow. He cracks me up with his rebellious ways and outrageous thinking.
Matilda is worried. Quinten hasn’t been heard from for three years now, and now this galvanized, bleeding from a bad wound in his gut, shows up with a message from her mother as well as a warning. Her father’s enemies are looking for him.
Twenty-six-year-old Matilda “Tilly” Case is galvanized and works their 150-acre farm in the hills of Pennsylvania while she stays under the radar. Her brother, Quinten, “made” her when he saved her life. The Neds Harris are Right Ned and Left Ned with each head having a distinct personality. He’s also a touch sensitive in that, by touching someone, he can learn a lot about them. He’s working for Matilda as a farmhand.
Grandma, Lara Unger Case, has lost a bit of her mind and passes her days knitting a scarf from the time-stopping wool of her pocket sheep: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Dr. Renault and Prof. Edith Case were her father and mother before they were murdered fourteen years ago. Dr. Alveré Remi Case, Tilly’s greats-great grandfather, built the Wings of Mercury time machine back in 1910.
Lizard is the size of a barn and stitched together from crocodile and iguana, but we don’t know where the wings came from. Pony is a bit of zebra, horse, and bison. Leapers are tree octopi with a preference for apples.
The 11 Houses rule…
…the modern world’s resources and therefore the world. Each house is named for that resource, visually marked with a color by which the House is commonly known and that each member of that House has to wear. Everyone is strongly “encouraged” to belong to one of the Houses. Slavery. The Gathering is the annual event where the Houses gather and jockey for power and position for the next year.
House Brown is…
…an independent-minded group of individual communities who prefer a democratic approach. They’re most like a pioneer community with Tilly and Quinten as its unofficial heads, partly because of the high-tech communications array in their farmhouse. The other Houses don’t recognize it, and House Brown has no rights.
Braiden Fessler is the head of a desert community in Nevada of about fifty. Thad is his son. They’ll have to run again. Abraham knew Gertie Fessler. Pocket of Rubies is a homestead close by.
Boston “Bo” Sue is a neighbor and will watch over Grandma. Listra is a woman Tilly meets at the start of the gathering.
House Gray lays…
…claim to and manages all the people in the world except for House Brown. Abraham Vail Seventh is one of the galvanized, born in 1880, and works for Oscar Gray, the head of House Gray. Hollis is Oscar’s brother and second in line to rule. Elwa seems to be the housekeeper.
House Yellow is…
…Technology, ruled by Welton Yellow whose galvanized is Foster First.
House Silver is…
…Vice and run by Reeves Silver whose galvanized is Helen Eleventh.
House Orange is…
…Minerals and run by Slater Orange, a vicious, sadistic bastard. He’s dying and wants a way out. Robert Twelfth is his galvanized, but hates Slater so much that he helps Abraham all he can.
House Black is Defense and is ruled by John Black. His galvanized is Bernard “Buck” Eighth. House White is Medical with Kiana White as its greedy head. January Sixth is her galvanized. White and Black are the Houses who murdered the Case parents. House Blue, Water, is run by Troi Blue, and she has three galvanized: Wila Fifth, Vance Fourth, and Obedience “Bede” Tenth. House Violet is Faith and preached at by Gideon Violet. Clara Third is his galvanized. House Red is Power and run by Aranda Red. Loy Ninth is her galvanized. House Green handles Agriculture and is run by Feye Green who owns Dolores Second.
Galvanized, a.k.a., stitched, people or animals are Frankenstein-like, with their bodies stitched together from spare parts. It was the Wings of Mercury, a time experiment that went horribly wrong. These twelve were all that survived. Torturers, doctors, scientists took them apart, rebuilt them. They can’t die. They have super-strength. Prized, they’re owned by the heads of the Houses. Filum Vitae is life thread, Dr. Case’s invention. Shelley dust will break the stitches of a galvanized, cause them to fall apart.
Sadie and Corb are smuggler friends of Neds’.
The Cover and Title
I see the cover as a futuristic steampunk with a sexy looking Tilly in jeans and a sleeveless green khaki cotton shirt, a pale peach tank top underneath, her red hair blowing in a stiff breeze with a rifle over one shoulder. A loaded gun belt around her waist, stitches around her neck and wrists, Tilly is immediately in front of what looks like a huge brake shoe above a very futuristic city below her, all sharp spires in a golden glow against a yellowish green sky.
The title is a play on the ruling Houses with one looking to become House Immortal.