I accidentally read book 4 of this series (The Secret of Abdu El Yezadi) before book 1, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, so my perspective here may be a little out of whack, but oh well. I think a lot of things meant to be surprises or reveals were not because I’d already seen the results. Burton complains briefly of feeling disconnected, and the reason for that gets fully disclosed in the 4th book, so I guess I missed wondering about that too, since I’m in the middle of the second book right now, and that complaint is becoming more visible, presumably I’m supposed to wonder what’s wrong that that feeling keeps coming back.
What worked best was that there was a lot more Swinburne and Burton together, although it would have been nice to see their first meeting. Algy gets a lot more action time in this story and he’s fun to watch. Likewise, the brief appearances by newspaper boy Oscar (Wilde) are amusing. Hopefully this continues.
On the flip side, seeing Burton meet Sister Raghavendra knowing where they were headed was nice. If I hadn’t known they’d form a partnership of sorts, it may have seemed like she was just a way to give Burton a break in the case. It’s good to know that there can be a useful woman in this world, since what I saw of Isabel really irritated me. Even though Burton admits things about her annoy him, I don’t understand what he sees in her. Book 4 helped with that, but here she’s just a problem, and I was a little happy when Burton broke up with her (which obviously doesn’t last, but still…)
With the parts from Oxford’s perspective, I don’t think I’d have been able to follow and understand what was happening if I hadn’t already seen references to these events explained. I’m pretty sure I missed an important event in this book and had to go back through the story a few times to find it. Granted it’s all about messing up one’s timeline and the parallel worlds and problems that get created as result, so it’s supposed to be confusing, but given how foundational this stuff is to the series in general, it would have been helpful for it to be a little more direct about what was going on with Oxford the whole time.
The one good thing that came out of the Oxford section was an explanation of how the time travel suit worked, information that comes near the very end of the book, but it still helped tie everything together.