What a fun romp—I love the hare-brained schemes and the irreverent humor. The characters are really engaging. Of course Sicarius, with his sense of distance and mystery, begs following just to catch another glimpse of what lies beneath that unreadable façade, but I also found Books and Akstyr intriguing. The first for his wit and his intelligence as well as loyalty to Amaranthe, and the latter for his quirkiness and the hint of hidden depths. Maldynado, I suspect, hangs around out of curiosity: the adventures he gets into with the Edge are a lark, and how can Amaranthe not be attracted to him? Amaranthe herself is a funny contradiction of terms, alternately determined, fearing to fail, failing, and delighted at turning tables. And Sespian, dear Sespian, might have escaped the first pot he was set to brew in, but he's still in the clutches of adolescent hormones and idealism. Even Hollowcrest fascinated me. I would love to know more of what he was thinking and what influenced his choices.
The "steampunk" setting is delivered with a light hand (which is good, because I would not like to be run over by thundering locomotives). I enjoyed the contrasts between the classes and genders. While I have seen comments that the gender discrimination is excessive, I feel that it fits not only the story itself, but our own historic (and even current) patterns. Standards of our own society now are not global and they are certainly distinct from most of history.
The plot was a wonderful roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, and—much to my delight—it's a good, clean read. I am very much looking forward to reading more of the adventure!