[I got an ARC of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Physical copy liable to change upon actual publishing.]
At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this novel, not knowing if I'd like it or if it was starting too slowly to my liking. However, I soon found myself engrossed in the story—I only read it in more than just a couple of days because I was busy, otherwise I'd probably have gone through it much more quickly.
First, though, one thing must be made clear: this is book 1 in a trilogy, and while it doesn't end on a strong cliffhanger, readers should be aware that not every single plot line gets resolved in it. The world building is quite complex, and only some of its aspects are revealed in this first installment. When one threat gets neutralised, another one appears; when one character is saved, another one gets into a predicament. All those things are meant to tie into the next book(s). If a reader's all right with that, then there should be no problem.
I found the 19th century London depicted here to my taste: dark alleys and street urchins; gentlemen dealing with creatures they don't fully understand; a travelling circus with a battle of "wizards"; the mysterious Oversight, who may be seen as "the nice ones", but whose members can be just as ruthless as their enemies, if not more. This world is painted in more shades of grey than I could count; the purest-looking ones aren't so innocent, and the darkest may not be so evil as they seem (the Sluagh's vindictive attitude, for instance, partly stems from
making the deal somewhat obsolete).
The writing was descriptive and captivating enough, without making me feel that it was delaying too much the setting of the various plots. There was something magic-like to it that made me come back on a regular basis.
What makes this novel's strength might be its downfall for some readers, though, in that it's very much plot-driven. The author wove his story in a way that kept me guessing as to who was truly evil and who wasn't, who was the enemy and who might actually be even more dangerous; on the other hand, while this was very well-done in my opinion, one might also find the characters not so well-developed in comparison. An example would be the relationship between
I could feel it, sense it, but it was perhaps too subtle, so in the end her decision to go
seemed somewhat rushed. The story and the promises it holds for next volume prevented me from resenting this too much, but it could still be a problem, depending on one's expectations.
Overall, a very intriguing novel which really caught my attention and makes me want to read the next one right now, but with the hopes that we'll get to know the characters better.