Note: The review refers to the edition included in Sword, Steam and Sky: Four Book Fantasy Bundle.
The final chapters of this book, starting from 42, and possibly also including 40 to some extent, are actually quite good. Better writing, closer to what I’ve come to expect from the author, better action, impact, characters a bit more fleshed out, even some emotion… What should have been the surprise revelation is no surprise, but otherwise, this could have been a pretty good book if all of it would have been like its final chapters. Yet the only thing I made a note of in a positive way before that point, other than the fact that for the most part it does at least read quickly and easily, was how Ivy’s writing mirrored the action, and even that only as a little nice touch.
Until then, this book isn’t just light reading, but light writing. It’s all rather flat, without emotion or impact, evoking nothing where the reader definitely should feel something. Pretty much nothing between the characters either until those final chapters; a supposed love triangle missing any sort of love, or for that matter any sort of emotion. And the characters are blatantly one-dimensional, most being nothing more than parodies, some even too much, or at least for too long, even for that to still make their presence tolerable.
Yes, much of that is probably intentional, emulating one of those “penny dreadfuls” the book so blatantly refers to, and this is one reason, likely not even one of the main ones, why someone with a keen interest in the period may well have a much better opinion of it, but for me it offers little excuse. In fact, other elements meant to recreate the period, starting with the condition of women, Ivy included, but also the speech and slang used by some characters, only frustrate me further. And the same goes for the typos and untranslated speech in other languages, though I’ve come to expect these from the author.