This one took me a weirdly long time to read, considering the fact that I don’t have major criticisms. I just… didn’t feel like reading it. In part that’s because of emotional stuff: tortures, transformations, losses… Tregillis writes well about these, and I tend to be bad at reading that. There’s one aspect of Visser’s character arc in particular that still has me cringing now. It’s worse with characters I feel more involved with, which is maybe the place that Tregillis failed to capture me. I’m not fascinated by his characters, so I didn’t have that drive to carry on reading and find out what happens, how they get out of their messes. I’m not sure I’ll read future books, because I only sort of want to know what happens to the characters, and I’m not sure if that’s enough to keep me going through the bad stuff.
And Tregillis definitely demonstrates he isn’t afraid to hurt his characters. There’s no real reassurance that there’ll be a happy ending. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it shapes my idiosyncratic response to the story.
In terms of plot and setting, it’s pretty awesome. He sets up an elaborate alternate history with mechanical servitors and alchemy, and a war between the French and the Dutch in consequence. There’s all sorts of philosophical stuff explored around this: concepts of the soul, theology, practical and societal changes… Tregillis doesn’t skimp on that kind of detail and background development at all. There’s room and to spare for more development as well: this isn’t a concept exhausted after the first book.
If I sound ambivalent, that’s a personal reaction; there’s a lot here to fascinate and absorb.