I have an increasingly difficult time accepting the bad guy's primary motivation being "revenge," or "I want to make people suffer." If they're not the hero of their own story, they lose some credibility, so this series has increasingly become a tough sell for me. Yes, people are petty. Yes, revenge is a thing, but when revenge and sadism seem to be the whole of a character, it makes it hard for me to care.
Of course, I care about Finely and Griffin, Emily and Sam, Mila, and Jasper, and even Jack Dandy enough to keep coming back for more (even after the over-the-top retreat into bedroom scenes of The Girl with the Iron Touch). In The Girl With the Windup Heart, I found myself caring ever more about Mila and Jack, but surprisingly less about everyone else. Really, at the end of chapter fifteen, when the arc revolving around Mila's integration seemed to have resolved, I was ready to put it down, because the high drama of Griffin's longstanding battle with The Machinist had just worn itself out with me. Again, I think this has a lot to do with The Machinist's extremely flat characterization and motivation. While I do love the detail Kady Cross has put into her version of the Aether, when it came down to it, between the two plots taking place simultaneously in this book, the one happening in the real world had, for me, more gravitas.
For a book that pays so much attention to artistry, I was surprised by the number of editing issues. Yes, my blog posts are filled with them, but I don't have editors, it's just me, usually at 2am, and possibly dealing with a crying kid. Although I checked it out at the library, it read like an unusually beautiful uncorrected galley.
That said, Kady Cross continues to do what she does best- deliver emotionally charged and romantic adventure in a well constructed alternate past, filled with great passages like, "Finley never thought she'd see a day when she'd be annoyed to be alive." As always, I am impressed with the nuanced world building that has gone into The Steampunk Chronicles. Kady Cross doesn't flinch from writing about the dark underbelly of the Victorian period- particularly gender and class issues, and takes on technological ethics issues as well. Although there are swoon worthy moments and a lot of the time the female characters sit around talking about the men in their lives, the text is not vapid, and definitely has more meat than "just a romance."
Of course, this is the fourth book in the series, and so if you've enjoyed the first three (or four, counting the novella The Strange Case of Finley Jane, which, was my favorite of them all) then you should pick this up as well. I'd rank it below The Girl in the Steel Corset, but above The Girl in the Clockwork Collar and The Girl With the Iron Touch, if that helps.