Normally I only give four stars to contemporary SF and Fantasy no matter how good it is. I save the five stars for the Immortal Classics. But some books are just so astounding that the rules need to be rewritten for them. This whole series falls into that category. It was steampunk before steampunk, and urban fantasy before UF became the hot new thing. Russell's world has all the magic and intrigue of steampunk with none of the copycat factor. And it deals with the real and profound issues of Victorian society instead of getting hung up on fashion accessories and whether or not they put skirts on piano legs. Plus, it is a great End of the Age of Magic story ... And I'm a sucker for those. Imagine A. S. Byatt turning her hand to popular fantasy, and you've got some idea of what Sean Russell does in these books. Yes, it's a fun ride ... But he also raises big questions about the relationship between science and spirituality, faith and reason, men and women, that will linger long after you've turned the last page.