It’s a world of wonders, but also of early industrial grime, some magic and early science, airships, assassins, infernals, and intrigue. The book was a quick, easy read–and never quite simple. Neither Caskandia nor the Dallows are noble–they’re trapped in a bitter war (or its immediate aftermath–there a pause in the fighting as the book opens), and reach for underhanded methods to advantage themselves. Methods like kidnapping our heroine Octavia, a medicant–a healer.
There are lots of interesting things to the book. Centering the book on a healer, someone who is compelled to heal, even at great inconvenience to herself, is an interesting choice. She’s powerful (and revealed to be uniquely so as the book goes on), but she’s not winning wars or decimating her foes with powerful spells.
The religion of the tree is interesting; Octavia’s a true believer–for good reason–but society around her mostly dismisses worship of the tree as superstition. There’s action and risk, and Octavia does rely on others for most of the fisticuffs… but it’s never not an adventure because she’s not leading the charge.
The book is complete enough to stand alone–the dangling threads can be picked back up, but the book doesn’t feel incomplete, or like the heart of the story is still untold. Instead, she’ll be off on another adventure… in The Clockwork Crown.
Despite the praise above… I may be entering the end of my cyclical fiction reading phase. I don’t feel a strong draw to pick up the next book, despite suspecting that it’ll be a fine book, with even more authorial skill behind it.