What is the difference between this book and a good book? A good book is not bogged down helplessly in historical detail. A good book has a clear plot. If a good book has a macguffin (an object that drives the plot), that object actually has some effect on the characters and world. A good book has a clear main character.
I honestly read 380 pages and became less and less sure of what the plot actually was. Which is sad, because they clearly did plenty of research. This book is what happens when an author gets so carried away with detail (and showing off how much they know about EVERYTHING in that era, including utterly unrelated political events that characters discuss for absolutely no reason) that they forget all the more important elements – that is, character and story. It would have been much better if it was cut to roughly half the length – but it still wouldn’t have a solid plot, or a central character (it has three, who have barely anything to do with one another). Also, it’s somewhat over-wordy.
It does have some good elements, thoroughly buried in minutiae. For the first fifty or so pages, I believed it was a good book. It is undeniably steampunk, though, with playful technology and plenty of political upheaval.
Sample: He had himself been in the smoking-room with the General and poor, doomed Radley, the both of them awash with drink. Of their respective styles of drunkenness, Radley’s had been the more presentable, the least predictable, the more dangerous. Houston, in his cups, delighted in playing the barbarous American: red-eyed, perspiring, foul-mouthed, he lounged with one great coarse boot propped muddily atop an ottoman.