Ink, Iron, and Glass, at face value, sounds fascinating. In reality, it’s one of those books that took so long for me engage in that by the time I thought to give up reading it, I was so far in that I thought I might as well finish it.
This book takes place in a steampunk, alternate Victorian era where Italian Unification never happened. The world is science crazed, specifically in scriptology, mechanics and alchemy (the ink, iron and glass, mayhaps?). Elsa is from a world written into being via scriptology, but that world goes upside down when her mother is kidnapped, her world disappears, and the danger sends Elsa on the lam.
This book did have interesting elements. It’s an intellectual book, in part, because it spends so much time looking at science (and history) in new ways. The science gives this books its steampunk label, and is too old-timey to feel modern in anyway, but the book expects you to know language in such a way that I had to appreciate its efforts.
As someone who spent a good portion of her junior year of high school learning about Italian unification, I also appreciated the historical aspect of this. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it made me feel shame though. I kept thinking: “Hey, I used to know a lot more about this but now I barely remember it.” I guess not all aspects of my education could stick.
This book is also mysterious enough to keep me vaguely, slightly interested despite its failings in truly engaging me. Beyond those successes, however, is a lot that falls flat. Near the end the book becomes Wonderland-y, but not in an inventive way, making it feel overdone.
The characters are the biggest weakness of the story. They are neither likable nor unlikable, interesting nor boring. This story contains some of the most neutral characters I’ve ever read. Because of this, each big reveal goes on without shock or fanfare. The romance lacks spark, and the friendships are more verbally expressed than shown.
The epilogue in particular had me scratching me head, wondering whatever makes that moment earned…because it isn’t.
I did like the book, but not enough. Too many other books will stick out my memory, while this one fades to the background with other books that are good, but just not good enough. Maybe I’ll read the sequel. More likely, however, is that I’ll forget I ever read this book.