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368 pages, Paperback
First published February 2, 2016
"Separation of seemly science from that which is unseemly, through the granting or withholding of licenses to produce and sell technology."Almost two centuries on, the Patent Office still has a stranglehold on technology, its mission to "confiscate and destroy the unseemly" effectively keeping the culture, technology, and even the societal mores of the Gaslit Empire at a standstill. In the best of alternate history, everything is different from our present, and the Gaslit Empire captures that to a tee. Rather than being relegated to a derogatory adjective for the technologically backward, Ned Ludd became the "father of the Anglo-Scottish Republic," which broke away from the still-monarchistic remainder of England and Wales. It's steampunk in the best way--not an unimaginative and under-researched "Victorian London but with steam," but a reimagined twentieth century where computers and their ilk were strangled in infancy. I adored it. Even more unusually, the distinctions from our reality extend to the perspectives of the characters. Their morality doesn't necessarily match the reader's. Although the reader, with presumed hindsight, can see the harm that the Patent Office has done, most of the characters are far more fearful of the unknown and feel that the Patent Office is "All that stands between us and the chaos that lies beyond the Gas-Lit Empire."
"If the catcher of the bullet chooses the moment, they call it conjuring. If the shooter chooses the moment, it is called murder."
"There was once a line marked out by God through which were divided heaven and hell. The devil created lawyers to make amends. They argued the thickness of that line until there was room within it for all the sins of men to fit."If you're looking for a truly entertaining alternate history with a heist, secret passages, and sinister governmental officials, Custodian of Marvels is definitely worth a look. Count me in for the sequel--and for the first books, too.
Footmen hurried to open the doors, whereupon two women emerged, dressed in outfits of yellow and green. It was a wonder that such a volume of skirts could have fit within the carriage. The women seemed young to be carrying such a weight of clothing.
Sleeping in ditches and under hedgerows, I'd thought my clothes couldn't become more soiled. But rolling into London on the back of a wagon, I found a different kind of dirt. Oily, metallic and sulphurous, it insinuated itself through the air, coating every surface. And, by stages, it worked its way into the very pores of my skin.
More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/The Custodian of Marvels is the third and final book in the Gas-Lit Empire series. In this volume, author Duncan does an excellent job of answering questions about the world and Elizabeth while neatly avoiding overwriting the denouement. The action is fast and furious throughout and this is much more a thriller than an urban fantasy. Admittedly, as much as I loved the other two books, I am not a fan of "Ocean's 11" type of heist stories and would have preferred more of the fantastical. But Duncan has crafted an intelligent and logical heroine in Elizabeth; following her story has been a treat.