For the first time in some time, I found a book that I enjoyed without reservations. I have not read Abrams' first book A Question of Honour, although I do intend to do so now, but I managed to connect up the plot threads and identify the connections with the previous book without any difficulties.
The first thing that grabbed me about this book was the characters. The heroine is brave, resourceful and independent-minded, although not to the point of stubborness where she will accept no help. The implications of her choice to dress as a boy are followed through, as are the implications of other key choices by other key characters: in this world, actions and choices have consequences, in some cases, harsh consequences. The hero is extremely unhappy, and although some of the legal technicalities of how and why he is so unfortunate were a little confusing, the impact of his situation is extremely clear.
Secondary characters are extremely vivid in this book, and the villains are as interesting as the good guys. I hope we see them return as much as some of the other characters who are no doubt going to take centre stage in Abrams' third book.
The setting is Napoleonic Europe and Abrams' detailed research and keen feel for the times and the city of Vienna are key to establishing atmosphere without overpowering the drive of the plot. I found the political double dealings and tense environment compelling.
The love story element of the book is relatively downplayed and subtle. I felt it arose relatively naturally, and we could work out how the characters felt through their actions.
In short, this was a fun and re-readable book.