(I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
A fast read, and one of those books I wish I had liked more (Victorian London + circus + thief + mechanical inventions: what's not to like in there, really?), but also one that didn't convince me in the end, unfortunately.
Things I liked: the steampunk side, light enough to be understandable by basically everyone, younger readers included. It has a touch of Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (in that stones/jewels play an important part), though it doesn't go further than that, and makes use of machinery whose concepts are easy to grasp, such as experimental night-vision goggles. Not the most creative I've ever seen, but a nice introduction nonetheless.
On the other hand, I found the backdrop fairly light, too—not a good thing. I never really got the feeling of a real circus, nor of Victorian mores. I think this could apply to several other aspects of the novel, in fact: it brushed against them, without ever diving deep enough for me to feel immersed. I could sense this most specifically with the characters. At first, I found them interesting, but they were never developed enough to hold my attention until the end, nor make me care about them. (And there definitely were interesting ideas in here, such as the unlikely trapeze artist/thief + young cop duo, the Professor with his inventions, the mysterious Lord...) Also, I didn't like the romance at all. I couldn't feel any chemistry within this couple, it seemed like a plot device to add some drama, and there were a few very melodramatic scenes that made me roll my eyes and want to slap those characters. Somehow, it moved too quickly, too superficially.
The plot itself seemed to rest on a lof of deus ex machina, predictable twists, and events inserted for convenience. I would've been more enthralled if Rémy and Thaddeus had had to really investigate, which in turn would have given them time to talk, get to know each other better; I guess this would have made the romance more palatable for me, as well as enhanced the strong points of their pairing, in terms of skills. Another thing I had a hard time with were a couple of plot points. First, the opal's role. One of the characters says that
yet I never got the purpose of that specific thread. Is there a second book in the writing? If there isn't, then I don't see the point. Same with(show spoiler)
couldn't Gustave tell Rémy about it way earlier than that, considering how involved she was, and how she was the one tasked with stealing the stone?
I suppose it could work as a very light read, or for really young readers (things never go further than a brief kiss in the romance department), but for me it didn't.