This is the book that comes before Magician’s Ward. In some respects, notably typesetter’s accuracy, Magician’s Ward is a better book — this is the famous book where a C19 housemaid exclaims ‘Cool!’ when she hears about a burglary, instead of the ‘Coo!’ the author intended…
In other respects, it’s a much simpler book, too. (Not unreasably so, of course, it is a light and somewhat fluffy YA book.) The plot isn’t particular convoluted, being of the ‘find all pieces of of the broken MacGuffin’ variety.
Both beginning and ending are very good, the begin gives a good sense of atmosphere, the end is, as the protagonist remarks in the privacy of her own head, pure theatrical farce. The middle is less vivid, and about and around the scene where protagonist and her mentor chase a coach on foot, I tend to slip, and put the book aside to read something else, like Usenet.
It is interesting, too, to notice how a re-reading that starts with the second book shows up the formation of the first, and then the second book. There were places where I thought ‘dash it — this is where the author went into another gear and made the plot bigger’. And conversely, there are, especially in the first part, hints of things as yet unnamed that, when taken up, peter out into nothingness.
Anyway, everyone reading this book will know that Merrill and Kim are going to marry; and fortunately they do, but only at the end of the second book.
Nice magic system, too.