This is a book with promise that doesn’t quite deliver. The central concept (a font of special power, a revolution with a hazy past), while not entirely novel, is well conceived and offers some nice touches (antarctic location, a steampunk-ish approach to magic).
Unfortunately, the book reads as a not-quite finished draft. It starts in media res, and Jansen takes her time to give us enough clues to put the pieces in place. Some of that is deliberate (the murky background of the last regime change), but some is clearly not (who’s who, and how they’re related). I felt that it just didn’t all hang together well, though, frustratingly, it could have, with a little more work.
I like that the key characters weren’t simple black and white, though some of the supporting cast were, and others were simple stereotypes. There were some reveals that I felt were unnecessary, and made the story a little mawkish, or at least brought it below the level it could otherwise have reached.
Mostly, the story and world simply wasn’t as well realized or described as I would have hoped. A solid beta draft, rather than a finished product. It’s for that reason that, though I’m intrigued by the story, I probably won’t go on to volumes 2, 3, or .5.
* A note on typos, which seem to feature unusually heavily in reviewer comments, and even led Ms. Jansen to include a note defending Australian norms: Aside from use of single quotes instead of double, I didn’t notice or care about the Astralianisms. (There were some cases of inconsistent voice, but that’s nothing to do with the variety of English.) I did note a moderate number of typos that I would have expected to be corrected by now (I got my copy recently from Amazon). I’m pretty sure that missing punctuation, misspelling of the heroine’s name, and mistaken words (‘had’ for ‘and’) also have nothing to do with Australian English. But we’re talking about 11 instances in a 250 page book (I mark them to edit out later) – noticeable, but not too worrying. I know how hard typos can be to spot, so the concern is not that there were some, but that there still are.