Previous book here.
I think this one is the best of the series so far, because yay, it finally gets down to some business!
Sophronia is 16 now, and is debating marriage vs. finding a patron to fund her future intelligencer work. (Lord Akeldama, perhaps?) She's interested in two boys and they're interested right back, but she's not ready to marry yet, and both of them have certain issues that make them at least somewhat unsuitable. Lord Felix Mersey is cute and charming and titled...but he's got a Pickleman for a dad, and Sophronia just can't approve of those politics, especially when Felix is kind of on that side himself. Soap the sootie is mostly exactly what she wants in a guy... well, except for the part where he's African and society ain't even gonna be down with that in the 1850's, so how would it even work?
After a brief interlude at school in which the vampire professor is clearly um, losing his shit, the plot kicks off when Sidheag gets a pigeon of bad news alerting her to the Kingair pack's disgrace that was the big backstory of Changeless. Sidheag runs off with Captain Niall for awhile in an attempt to mitigate the situation, which is scandalous enough on its own. But when Sophronia, Dimity and her brother, Felix, and Soap (who sneaks along) head off to her brother's engagement/masquerade ball, it's interrupted by several things: (a) Sidheag showing up accompanied with werewolves, saying that she just wants to go home to Scotland and try to help, and (b) every mechanical in the house suddenly stops, breaks into "Rule Britannia," and then breaks altogether. The group takes advantage of the last bit to flee in an airdinghy and, of course, hijack the nearest train heading in the right direction. And of course, something seems to be up with that train, especially when an old nemesis is on it.
I was getting kinda wanky in the previous book review for ah, various reasons. I am pleased to report that I think everyone's growing up in this one (and not just in the hormonal boys sort of way, though hoo boy, there is a lot of that), and the plot is definitely moving on to bigger things with the mechanicals. Bridging is finally happening! The mechanicals plot doesn't finish off in this book, but the implications of where that's going on is great and ahem, will explain a lot in the future of the world. The train chase is full of adventure and action, and who doesn't love a runaway train?
As for the boys: in the end, that might be the biggest plotline of all. One fellow is eventually reasonably ruled out, but the other...well, circumstances change and the ending was quite a surprise to me on this one, and makes me wonder about the implications of Sophronia's future. I'll comment a bit about it below the cut, but it was quite a gutwrencher for a series that usually seems kinda fluffy. I'm down with the depth, and yeah, I'd like to find out how it's all going to work in the end.
- Practicing flirting. Hubba hubba.
- "The boys ignored her, squaring off rather like two hounds after the same smelly old carcass. "Oh, really," said Sophronia, annoyed at being ignored. "I'm not really important in this situation, am I? You two simply wish to bicker." HAHAHAHAH. Sophronia's such a romantic...or ah, not.
- "Well, I don't know who you are, sir, although I respect the courage of a man who wears satin breeches that tight..." --Pillover to Soap.
- Sophronia suggesting stealing the train--and NOBODY is even a tiny bit fazed by her saying that. And Sophronia's a little disappointed that even Dimity thinks it's reasonable. Bwah.
- Sophronia comparing a boy to a dress that she tried to make over. Hard to argue with that.
- "Can't base a marriage on annihilation...." (Tell that to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, though?)