Hmm, let's see: steampunk noir, fantastic worldbuilding, characters I fell in love with almost instantly, crime scenes worthy of Patricia Cornwell, clockwork, LOTS of sexual tension and a heart-stopping conclusion. All in a single book, my friends.
Centuries ago in a land called Hy Breasil, native Ferishers and strayed humans saw marriage as a way to stop the war between their two races. Sons and daughters of the two great Courts married the conquerors in an attempt to save themselves from annihilation. Today, very little Fey blood remains and the gifts it offers are often both unwelcome and dangerous.
In the great city of Dorstaad, two Criminal Investigation Division inspectors, Celeste Ritsuko and Janus Mikani, do excellent work despite the hostility they occasionally face. They are each other's exact opposites: she, measured, well organized and precise, excellent at drawing conclusions from evidence she pedantically collects; and he, a charmer who mostly runs on intuition and solves cases using gifts his Fey blood provides.
Ritsuko and Mikani begin as co-workers and friends and they remain friends. It is a wonderful thing they have, a purely platonic relationship built on trust and mutual understanding. There is attraction of course, but neither of them is willing to risk what they already have for something that may or may not work... probably not, considering Mikani's track record. Neither of them admits, even to themselves, that they might be moving towards something more, a different kind of relationship, no longer safe, but risky and exciting at the same time. Theirs is a subtle, tentative dance, a slow-burning romance at its finest and one that will leave you desperate to know if and when they'll take the plunge.
(You WILL be jumping up and down in your seat, chanting "Do it! Do it! Go for it! Kiss her, you moron! Kiss her!")
Their characterization is superb. I find that I often use the words `astonishingly good' to describe Aguirre's work, but I can't help it when they always apply. Bronze Gods and its characters didn't sprout over night, they're the result of a decade-long work, which is obvious on every page. I've read my fair share of crime novels and seen enough crime shows that I'm not easily impressed. I think we are all desensitized as readers and viewers, and yet these crime scenes gave me the chills. Each included a different mysterious, inexplicable device, the purpose of which was entirely unclear to Ritsuko and Mikani.
I am, as I'm sure you all know, a bit demanding when it comes to steampunk. I want well-defined worlds, age-appropriate language and at least a few creative gadgets. Ann and Andres Aguirre gave me all that and more. I need book 2 more than I need air... or bread.... or...well, maybe not blueberry muffins. But close.
I rest my case.