Dead Iron was recommended to me by a friend who'd very much enjoyed this series and others by Devon Monk. The book is workmanlike and entertaining, but hardly enthralling.
Our hero, Cedar Hunt, has been cursed with lycanthropy. He's interesting enough, though his tortured mien slips into angsty every now and then, and is only saved from whiny by his tight-lipped, Old West tough-guy personae. Mae Lindson bears the double-scarlet letters of being both a witch and the gringa half of a racially mixed marriage. She's widowed pretty early on in the book (before the end of chapter 2), and spends most of the book wrapped in raging grief and the thirst for vengeance. Her husband is slightly more approachable as a character in spite of being dead, in large part because he refuses to admit that "until death do us part" means your marriage ends when your heart stops beating. Rose Small is an orphaned child with a mysterious past even she doesn't suspect, and which is little explored in this book. Still, her determined optimism, open-mindedness, and innocence makes her the most empathetic and interesting or our main characters. They are aided by a trio of subterranean "Welsh" miners and steam-punk tinkerers called the Madder brothers, who provide logistical support, firepower, and much-needed comic relief, though they themselves fall prey to the tight-and-stiff-lipped Old West tough-guy thing themselves.
They are opposed by the excessively ostentatious Shard LeFel, royal exile of a magical world-next-door. Under the guise of a railroad tycoon, LeFel has been working to build an enchanted door that will allow him to return home. He just needs to murder three specific people in order to open that door.
(As an interesting aside, LeFel is written more like a tragic hero than a villain, facing and overcoming obstacles and setbacks at every turn. Except for his eagerness to murder and manipulate, he'd be easy to mistake for a hero whose goals just happen to oppose those of our main characters.)
The action takes place in the small town of Hallelujah, populated by the most backwards, suspicious, small-minded sheeple-hicks you're likely to ever encounter this side of Hester Prynne's Boston. I'm not shocking or spoiling anything for you when I mention that LeFel whips up the townsfolk into a torch-waving mob that marches on Mae Lindson's home, am I? Didn't think so.
LeFel's minions are largely made up of the Strange, and they darn near make up for any shortcomings in the story. Malevolent spirits driven by disturbing appetites, they seek easy entry into the American continent, and the dead iron rails of LeFel's transcontinental railroad are just the sort of gateway that they need. In the meantime, they require the sorcerous-steampunk amalgamation bodies LeFel can provide in order to have any serious presence in the human world, and they use these bodies to further LeFel's interests, though not always eagerly.
I haven't decided if I'm going to pick up the second book in this series. I just don't feel the burning need to know what happens next, as I do with Kim Harrison's books, nor do I find the world quite as intriguing as I do Sarah Hoyt's current foray into multi-world steampunk-and-sorcery (though I'll readily admit Monk's work is far more steampunky, with it's steam-powered mecha and multi-utility brass-and-crystal shooting goggles. Yes, Virginia, in Monk's work, the goggles, they do do something!). That all said, the setting and the Strange are intriguing, and I'm curious to see what sort of trouble Rose finds for herself, so I imagine I'll pick up book two eventually.