It took a little while, but this book sucked me in. It was the foul-mouthed messenger parakeets that did it (see “Free sample” below). Hodder’s world bears a passing resemblance to the world of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy – there are two major schools of science, and one of them deals in biological inventions. Both worlds are a LOT of fun, which is how I like my steampunk served up.
The two title characters didn’t particularly grab me – partly because the book kept telling me how fabulous they were. And there were a lot of other peculiarly novice-like mistakes: the plot was overly complex; there was too much exposition (at one point the author clearly knows it, and says something like, “Burton knew all the data he’d just collected was completely irrelevant to the case at hand, but he simply had a mania for knowledge” – which makes it so much worse); and everyone talked in a really peculiar stilted manner. It also suffered from too-much-research syndrome, when you get the feeling the author is trying to slip in various bits of history they found personally interesting – but that don’t actually fit in the story. Far too many major and minor characters are based on real people.
But for all that, I wanted to know what happened and why. And it was fun. So go read it and make up your own mind.
Oh! I almost forgot. At a certain point the book suddenly got very gory, and then stayed that way. Strange but true.
Free sample (the heroes walk through a messenger parakeet enclosure, and are addressed by the birds thusly):