I didn’t enjoy Iron Council anywhere near as much as I did Miéville’s other books. I’m not sure quite why, to be honest. Parts of it irritated me stylistically — the large section which follows Judah in the middle, mainly — but that wouldn’t automatically lower my enjoyment of the whole book. I didn’t find the writing as descriptive, although there were some very interesting descriptions, mostly the parts where the train goes through the stain. Whyever it was, I just didn’t get into this book that much. I did enjoy it, and if you enjoy the other Bas-Lag books and know what to expect from Miéville’s writing, then I’m sure you’d get a lot out of it. I just didn’t.
Part of it is that it isn’t as focused. It’s not just one city, but two. The train-city is built up and described, but I don’t feel as strongly connected and rooted to it as I do to New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station and Armada in The Scar. If the cities are characters, Iron Council falls a little flat. There are interesting characters, mostly Cutter and Judah, who I think I got more attached to than other characters of similar importance in the other two Bas-Lag books. I think Cutter was the character I got most attached to. Judah being all saint-like all the time kind of made me want to hit him sometimes, but Cutter’s feelings were so honest and open in the narrative.
In terms of plot, I spent a lot of time wondering where it was actually going. It never came together as strongly as I expected it to, and the climax wasn’t much of a climax. The end is appropriate, and makes sense, but I think the book could have been edited/reordered for better effect.