Phew! What a read! The book lasts for a marathon-like 800(ish) pages, switching between the viewpoints of our three protagonists; Miss Temple, Dr Svenson (a German officer initially trying to keep a wayward Prince out of trouble) and Cardinal Chang (a mercenary hired to kill an influential man, only to find him already dead). These three unsuspecting heroes eventually team up and together take a stand against the group whose sinister 'process' seems to have stolen people's souls, including Roger's.
As you can already fathom, there are a lot of characters to get your head around in this book. Not only are you trying to piece together which members of the Cabal are really in charge, but which ones the protagonists have each encountered and who has allegiances to whom. The result is that it takes a long time to fully grasp what on earth is happening and it can create confusion when names or situations are mentioned but you cannot place them.
The idea of inadvertent heroes facing off against an evil group isn't all that new. In fact, the general story is quite reminiscent of Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker, yet another steampunk novel, but the complexity of the plot and the idea of the indigo clay and its' properties were impressive. A few questions remain as to how the glass and the alchemical equipment works during the processes and how the clay is made into glass and gas. Maybe the next two books will offer better explanations and descriptions of both of these aspects.
As for the characters, they are extremely well drawn; each of the cabal members have their own reasons for acting as they do and how they choose their alliances. Even some characters that seem harmless throughout have secret agendas. Out heroes also each have interesting back-stories, some more in depth than others, and they go through differing character arcs. Miss Temple, being someone who is not used to action or adventure, let alone wielding weapons against strong enemies, goes through the biggest transformation and yet somehow retains the sense of self that we see in the first chapter.
The writing style is very like most Victorian books, where every element of what happens is described in detail and the plot moves slowly and steadily. Some of you may find this a bit demanding and even slightly dull. I felt I needed events to move more quickly to keep my attention up.
Expect a lot of action, and lot of things going on at the same time and a fair amount of confusion in places. Also, as a disclaimer, this book is also quite provocative and some may feel uncomfortable reading those parts in public. All in all, the book is a good one, a long adventure and an excellent idea, though you may find yourself drifting off if you are reading to late at night. Despite the fact that the book could have done with some editing, I am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series (pictured below).
7 out of 10.
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This book is available as a serial on your kindle, but I would recommend buying the whole book as you can then flick through to parts you can't recall properly. It is a little bit daunting, but it is much easier to keep the plot in your mind this way.
Thank you to Penguin for giving me the opportunity to read this book.