Blurb: “You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared international patent office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to try. A one-time enemy from the circus has persuaded her to attempt a heist that will be the ultimate conjuring trick. Hidden in the vaults of the patent court in London lie secrets that could shake the very pillars of the Gas-Lit Empire. All that stands in Elizabeth’s way are the agents of the patent office, a duke’s private army and the mysterious custodian of marvels.”
If you thought Unseemly Science was a rollercoaster then prepare to pull down the safety barrier because you’re about to ride another.
Elizabeth decides it is time to get to the bottom of things. She tries (and forcibly succeeds) to get into a university to see Professor Ferdinand who she believes can help her understand the importance of The Bullet Catcher’s Handbook. Professor Ferdinand begrudgingly reveals that each copy of the book is different: while some famous sayings are present in the pages, others are less common, and that it’s clear sayings have been passed down the generations. The Professor tells Elizabeth that the copy she has can be thought of as a branch of a family tree that he had thought extinct. Therefore, the book she has is priceless.
Elizabeth is more alone than ever. Julia is off finally fulfilling her ambition of studying law so only has time to communicate with Elizabeth via infrequent letters.
While Elizabeth reminisces on things, giving the reader an insight into parts of her life she has previously kept very private, an old enemy from the circus shows up with proposition. He needs help to break into the patent office and Elizabeth has the talents to do it.
Elizabeth also reveals more of her past regarding the Duke of Northampton and blames him for the downfall of her life: “The day that is clearest in my memory is the one where my father told me to grab my things and run. The duke’s men-at-arms had found us and were on their way. It was the last day I saw him.”
Naturally, Elizabeth has many plans for revenge.
It’s really hard to talk about this book without spoiling everything about it, so my kind-of-synopsis is going to end there.
As for my thoughts on this book, there were so many great things.
It was interesting to see Elizabeth’s dynamic change. In previous books it’s only really been Elizabeth and Julia (who was mostly absent from Elizabeth’s criminal/private detective happenings) with Tinker becoming a prominent second character in the last book. However, in this one she becomes part of a team and it was really interesting how a character who suspects every single thing and person could possibly WORK together with a group of people. It was satisfying seeing Julia continue to defy her mother and finally make it into studying law and how he has blossomed as a result. (I’ve been really rooting for her since the first book okay)
Once again, Rod delivers that outstanding level of writing where every word is placed so delicately and with precision that you forget you’re reading a book. I often found myself slightly confused when I looked up and was sat on a train or the sofa rather than someone in the world of his books. And it has been a true joy to experience.
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