I have done this twice recently: started a series part way through by mistake. Funny thing is, it’s a similar sort of series and the mistake will probably have similar effects. The Iscariot Sanction is Book 2 of the Apollonian Casefiles series (which is apparently aka the Lazarus Gate series?). It is somewhat steampunk, somewhat secret agent adventure, and somewhat a buddy-cop style story.
There are some supernatural happenings in late nineteenth century London, and a secret society connected to the government is investigating/protecting the world. There seem to be 3 main narrators, although one dies part way through. Lillian Hardwick is the main figure, and the only lady agent, and then there’s her partner the psychic Arthur Furnival, and her brother and fellow agent John Hardwick. There are mysterious forces and possibly vampires to investigate.
Lilian has a little bit of a chip on her shoulder on account of being a female agent, as well as her father’s daughter. Dad is apparently a big figure in book 1, to which this volume is either a prequel or alternative future, and here is a leader of their agency. I still can’t decide if I like her or not. Having her get bitten by a vampire and turning almost double agent is part of my problem, because supposedly it’s supposed to make her colder and less human, but I don’t really see a lot of difference in her character.
Her relationship with Arthur works really well at first, but when they go into what turns out to be a final confrontation, her regret at never telling him she loved him is a little too cliché for me.
I’m similarly not sure how I feel about Lilian and John’s relationship. It seems like it’s supposed to be close and supportive, but Lilian quietly resents her brother getting more credit than she, and when he tries to help her after her vampire problem starts, she doesn’t react with any kind of hint that she even recognizes him that way anymore. Admittedly, that’s a part of being a vampire in this world, but even before that started there was little evidence that Lilian felt that closeness to her brother they supposedly shared.
It’s possible reader book 1 first would have helped, but I just don’t really like Lilian as a character. Which also irritated me when John’s partner Smyth confesses to Lilian that he loves her, after her love dies and she’s turned into a vampire. Bad timing sure, but why did he have to do that?
De Montfort, the main villain for much of the story, apparently has hidden reasons for bringing Lilian to meet the vampire king, but those are never explored which was disappointing. He never fully reveals them to Lilian, and then John apparently kills him, so unless he comes back (which is possible) or there’s something in the first book to answer what his motives really were, there’s an annoying hole in the character/plot.
I’m really wishing I’d done book 1 first. We’ll have to see if it makes more or less sense, since I’ll have my hands on that soon enough.