I bought this book over a year ago. It looked interesting but, for whatever reason, it just kept slipping down my shelf. Finally, I decided that enough was enough – I just needed to read it.
Its not that it was a bad book – but it also isn’t really a good one. The vaguely English alternate universe – Germany exists, as does France… but there’s also a place called Macklenberg and the main setting seems to be an unnamed London equivalent. So that was interesting, to be sure. And the strange way the story shoots off like a crazed bottle rocket in the first hundred pages was gripping – but in that “I don’t really know what the hell is going on and I’m reading faster only to see if it clears up” way. Not what you want, you know?
This book was apparently originally one book (along with Vol. 2) – it was split to try and recoup some of the massive loss the publisher incurred because the book (along with its sequel) apparently flopped. AND I UNDERSTAND WHY. The real problem in this book comes from its interminable lengthiness. It just goes on and scenes that might take a more skilled author a page take Dalhquist (a playwright, so you’d think he could handle brevity…) three pages and while Cardinal Chang is definitely a fascinating character, Celeste Temple and Doctor Svensson are relatively forgettable and I never really cared about either of them.
The book did live up to its “bodice-ripping” appellation on the back – there is a fair amount of regency bosom heaving and some strange sexual near-encounters. The scenes in the first hundred pages in the mansion were suitably confusing – wandering through a massive house at a massive party with strange things happening; it felt like a punchdrunk show put on the page. Sadly, that’s not how you want to start a book. Its not even that I need grounding in reality to enjoy a book – but I do need grounding in some kind of “okay, this is what’s happening” in order to continue to want to read. Otherwise I just get frustrated and even by the time I’ve put things together, I’m already wishing I was reading something else. You can tell – when it takes me a week to read a book like this (that ought to zip by, when you look comparatively), you know I just wasn’t into it.
Rating: 2 out of 5. There are some interesting descriptions of places, Cardinal Chang is a cool character, and the bodice-ripping wasn’t a bad thing. However, I don’t know that I’m going to pick up Vol. 2 – I mean, I want to know what the damn blue glass is all about but how many damn times can you get your three heroes caught by the “mysterious Cabal” and then allow them to escape only for them to rinse-and-repeat a hundred pages later? Seriously, this just felt interminably long and its only PART ONE. So, despite my completist nature, I think you can probably count me out for Part Two.