Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly why this felt a disappointment. It was a good, strong novel, with interesting characters (both of whom were new to me, not having read Clementine before this novel, so I hadn't been introduced to Maria "Belle" Boyd yet.) It's a solid ending to part of what the novels were about. And I think that's where my problems come from: It's the end. The last (full-length?) project in the series, and it perfectly wraps up the Civil War plot, bringing in Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln as main characters. Though they seem more like ciphers than they do fully rounded characters, like she took what we know of their personas and personalities and advanced them a little, tried to humanize, but didn't fully round either of them out. Grant comes off better, because he has more page time, but still a bit flat.
It's the last third of the book that justifies the read, with the stand-off at the Lincolns' home. Maria and Henry have excellent chemistry, and though they're story comes to an abrupt conclusion, those parts felt satisfying anyway, because of their character interaction. The airship chase and fight felt more exciting, not because I was focusing on their end goal, and their rush to get there, but because I cared about the characters and wanted to see them survive. A shame, then, that he gets hurt and there's only one small mention afterward to even let us know that he was alive. It's not a personal novel, to be sure; the story is obviously much more important than the characters, and it sort of suffers from that. Though that should have meant that it moved faster than it did in its first half.
It almost feels to me that nothing since Dreadnought really mattered, that Ganymede and especially The Inexplicables never even needed to happen, and that was a true shame to me, that it didn't feel like a climax or a conclusion to the entire series; instead, it made me wonder why we took those proverbial side streets at all.
We don't see the war end. Or, in fact, the apparent zombie apocalypse that occurs because, as we're told at the beginning of the novel, it's inevitable, even if they were able to end the war immediately. That was a bit of a cop out, and definitely left me wanting more. It was rushed, it was a disappointment. We simply get a small epilogue where Grant rushes to catch us up on what could have filled another five books, I think.
The world has always been the books strong point. And the characters, though sometimes I believed that the author herself didn't understand that, and they were simply a means to an end. I loved Maria, I loved, loved, loved Bardsley (and an extra star for having a story about the Civil war and including a black character, a former slave and current genius who essentially invents the central processing unit.) If it hadn't been the last book in the series, I think I would have been far more generous, and less likely to feel this heavy disappointment.