This is a fantasy novel set in a world of Men, dwarves, gnomes and fairies, but instead of the usual medieval period setting, the milieu is more akin to the eighteenth century. The period detail is fantastic and the writing is sumptuous. The characters are well drawn. There’s an alchemist-turned-bookseller struggling dabbling in the dark arts. There’s his niece who must defend her cousin from her from the eccentric medical plots of her overbearing mother. And then, there’s a dashing Scarlet Pimpernel type who fights occult secret societies and the like. It takes a while for the pieces of the story to coalesce into the plot but the journey makes the wait worth it.
The world building is excellent. The eighteenth century elements (and some of the place names) can blind you that at times, but there was obviously a lot more work and thought put into the setting than a simple transposition of historical and literary detail.
My one quibble would be the recipe of a homunculus only in so far as it pushes the age range for which the book is suitable upward. It didn’t bother me particularly, but I could see it bothering others.
It’s the first part of a duology so there are still matters to be resolved in the sequel, but the conclusion at the end didn’t make me feel short changed.