Top positive review
Lots of fun, though a bit weaker on balance than its predecessor
on 2 January 2017
I read the first book in this series a couple of years ago, and despite really enjoying it, somehow never felt compelled to read the sequel. Though I think this is slightly weaker than its predecessor, I'm glad I finally got round to it as it's still a lot of fun.
If you've read the first book (and you really should, as the books follow on directly) you probably know what to expect - supernatural creatures openly walking the streets of London, Victorian manners, and a nice blend of intrigue, romance, and silly jokes, all held together by a well-developed female lead. To a greater or lesser extent, it's all present and correct here.
On the positive side, with the first book having provided lots of world-building, the author is able to dive right in in this installment and also further develop her characters, set-up and mythos. There were some great new additions to the cast, most notably Madame Lefoux, a sharp-suited lesbian French scientist, who leapt off the page. And while he didn't actually end up doing much, the caddish Woolsley pack Gamma, newly returned from fighting in India, was an enjoyable read and will surely get a larger role in subsequent volumes.
On the downside, while the second half is really entertaining, I found this installment a bit slow to get started and the plot - which hinges around a mysterious weapon or illness that's taking away creatures' supernatural powers - to be relatively thin. And though there were some very amusing lines and set-pieces, I didn't feel it was as laugh-out-loud funny as I remember the original being. And on the romance side, Alexia and Lord Maccon's relationship is sweet and sexy, but inevitably, a committed marriage isn't quite as exciting to read about as a will-they-won't-they/falling i love scenario. And in stark contrast to some of the exciting new characters, I found the old standby of Alexia's nominal best friend Ivy (who she seems to have nothing in common with and little regard for) to be increasingly irritating.
That sounds like a lot of complaints for a four star review, and over the course of the first few chapters, I suspected it might end up being more of a three starrer. But it definitely gets better as it goes on, and overall, the concept/setting and the general sense of humour, danger and romance make it better than the sum of its parts and allow me to forgive it a lot. I'm going straight on to book three, and will be interested to see whether that's going to be better as the author gets into her stride or worse as she uses up her best ideas and jokes.