The sequel to Goblin Moon, it was originally published as The Gnome’s Engine. To be frank, I don’t understand the change of name. Personally, I felt the original title is more relevant to the main thrust of the plot.
The story continues where the previous book left off. The sorcerer Thomas Kelly and the Duchess separately hunt Sera, Elsie and Jed. Meanwhile the parchment originally stolen from the Duchess proves to be the key to unlocking the secrets of the drowned continent of Panterra. Meanwhile, Shelbrooke is busy hunting white slavers.
The world expands a good deal in this second volume. The writing is full of engaging detail and subtle wit.The main plot points are resolved but there are some new questions raised and avenues opened which I suppose adds to the verisimilitude and probably were originally intended for a sequel. Some of the minor characters from the first novel feel kind of underused, perhaps for similar reasons, but overall, the novel was very satisfying.
The novel includes three short stories which either relate to the world of the novel or share the same sensibilities. I particularly enjoyed Titania or The Celestial Bed which was a very clever story setting some of Shakespeare’s characters in the eighteenth century.
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.