Rather unfairly, I feel as if I had been reading this book for decades, and that’s a shame because (a) it was really very enjoyable in many ways and (b) I have the other two books in the trilogy still to read so am taking a break and trying very hard not to not read them.

If that makes sense.

Because both the Book God and Silvery Dude enjoyed the story (SD has I believe now read them all) and I am not one to give in when the recommendations of bookish cohorts are causing me trouble (not that it’s a competition, no of course it isn’t, don’t be silly).

But it took me AGES to get through this. It’s not that I wasn’t having a good time with the lush prose and the melodrama and the plot twists and the villains, alliances made and lost and made again, all with some naughtiness to boot.

It was just a reluctance to pick the thing up; it was HEAVY in hardback, though undoubtedly a pretty book – what you can’t tell from the picture is that this is a white hardback with transparent blue plastic overlay (which I was always anxious not to damage, so that didn’t help) and an embossed black mask – masks are very important to this story. And it was tiring to read – something about the prose style which was so over the top (though it suited the story) that it was at times exhausting. But I struggled on through all these hardships because I liked the three main characters and I wanted to know what was going to happen.

So you have Celeste Temple, a young woman in a strange city who has just been dumped by her fiancé; Cardinal Chang who is a hired killer whose intended victim has already met foul play; and Dr Svenson, a medical man looking after a rather unpleasant prince engaged to be married to some poor girl. The stories of all three become intertwined with a far-ranging and diabolical conspiracy involving a mysterious painting and, of course, the glass books themselves. Which are blue.

The men are either dashing or villainous and on occasion villainously dashing; the women are chaste but brave, or vampish in a dastardly way, but all have heaving bosoms and a tendency to use their womanly wiles to manipulate the other characters for good or ill. The plot itself cracks along but I’m not entirely sure I understood what the point of it actually was. But there are steam trains and mines and converted castles and airships and a body count of significant proportions and it would probably make a brilliant TV series, and I will read the others at some point.