My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I originally bought the hardback version of this when it first came out, entirely because it was an amazingly beautiful edition. It then sat on my shelf for several years because it was the size of a garden shed and therefore too bulky and inconvenient to carry about (I do most of my reading on the train to and from work). I therefore recently bought a copy of the paperback edition, entirely so I could actually read it - thus owning two copies before I even knew whether I liked it.
Suffice to say, I loved it, and with a slightly unhinged passion. It became one of those books I was unwilling to put down, while at the same time not wanting to finish it because then it would be over. I now discover it's the first part of a trilogy, which, because it's taken me so long to read the first one, is now complete. I'm in heaven. (This also answers the question of the slightly abrupt-feeling ending.)
It's not unflawed - the majority of the book is split into three different narratives by the main characters, which is mostly very satisfying as they come together but when they overlap you end up sitting through the same events three times from slightly different viewpoints - and the latter part especially seems to involve a lot of aimless running up and down corridors. (There is a LOT of running in this book, so much so that one of the protagonists actually complains about it at one point.)
The plot is ridiculously convoluted, there are far too many characters to keep proper track of, and our three heroes spend most of the book trying to work out exactly what the hell is going on - but despite all that, it was one of those books that just feels *right*. I fell instantly and enduringly in love with Doctor Svenson, Cardinal Chang and Celeste Temple, and next time I need to defeat a sinister cabal of alchemical and political deviants, I'll know exactly who to call.
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