Not Your High School Romeo & Juliet Homework: Announcing Steel Blood

Steel Empires Book #3

On Monday’s My Favorite Things, we learned that Sound Off editor J.L. Gribble spends her time writing novels when she’s not watching movies to review them for Speculative Chic. Today, we’re happy to share the news of her book release! Steel Blood is the latest in the Steel Empires series, urban fantasy novels set in a very alternate history. When J.L. told Speculative Chic that the short pitch for her novel was “Romeo and Juliet with werewolves and weredragons — with bonus feminism,” it sounded right up our alley.

The Book:

Steel Blood (2017)
Written by: J.L. Gribble
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Alternate History
Series: Steel Empires (Book 3)
Publisher: Dog Star Books

The Premise:

As her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.

For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.

Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness.

This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.

Congratulations on publishing the third book in your Steel Empires series! But I have to ask: for readers new to your and your work, can they read Steel Blood as a stand-alone? If not, where should they start?

I think that this novel can be read as a stand-alone, as long as the reader understands that it is not the beginning of these characters’ stories. I actually just got a lovely reaction from someone who read an advanced electronic copy, but had not read either of the previous books. Those readers who do like to start at the beginning should check out the first book in the Steel Empires series, Steel Victory. It introduces Victory and Mikelos and shows the world as it exists in its current state — and how political forces are shifting, leading to the events in Steel Blood. You don’t need to read the second one to get caught up, though! Steel Magic and Steel Blood split up the main narrators from the first book and tell concurrent, separate adventures.

Excellent. So basically, people can pick up whichever book tickles their fancy! Now tell us: you said this is an urban fantasy…set in a very alternate history. What makes this world different than what urban fantasy readers are used to?

Traditionally, urban fantasy novels feature a main female protagonist (using first-person point of view narration) who is somehow “special.” That can mean she has amazing magical or combat powers, is another race (whether part human or not), and exists in a familiar, contemporary society (usually an urban setting, hence the name) where the mainstream population has no idea that the supernatural or paranormal exists.

While some of my favorite series follow this definition to the letter, I knew that wasn’t the story I wanted to write. Instead, I imagined a contemporary world that has evolved where the supernatural has always existed, and everyone has always known about it. How has human (and non-human) society evolved because of this?

In addition, the original draft of the first novel in the series was written when having a vampire main character meant that there had to be a love story and sexy shenanigans. I broke that mold by having Victory and Mikelos in a long-standing relationship, and aspects of that relationship are further explored in Steel Blood.

Okay, so we have vampires, but you also promised us werewolves, which are pretty common too. But weredragons? That’s amazing! What other werecreatures can you promise?

While those are the main three in this novel, my world also features more werecreatures of a variety of species, including panthers and leopards, bears, and even a particularly cantankerous werebadger.

Werebadgers? Weredragons? An urban fantasy set in a world grown for an alternate history? This definitely sounds like something unique! What else makes your urban fantasy different from the norm?

I think the Steel Empires series is different because it’s not “just” urban fantasy. My publisher, Dog Star Books, is the SF/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press, who are known specifically for breaking the mold with genre-blending. My books are urban fantasy, but they’re also political intrigue, female coming-of-age stories, and in this latest outing: a warped retelling of Romeo and Juliet starring a perturbed vampire mercenary as Nurse.

And there you have it! If this wasn’t enough, follow along with the Steel Blood blog tour to learn more about the world of this novel, read character and author interviews, and excerpts from the book!

1 Comment

  • Shara White July 19, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    Now this is a series I need to catch up on! I’ve read the first book, but I think it’s high time to read the second, and lucky for me, I can read books two and three back to back!


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