My entire frustration with this book is how nonsensical characters’ decisions are. The plot itself is an engaging one, for all that it mimics the beats of The Prestige (side note: basically the entire cast of that movie ended up being superheros or were already). There’s also a lovely, liberal dose of diversity of both race and sexual identity, and while the former has some period appropriate side eye the latter is barely looked at twice.
But! A warm and fuzzy 1901 where Black and queer characters can have happily ever afters (this is a YA book, no spoilers here) does not a book make, and some of the decisions they make have truly no bearing in reality. Occam’s Razor is taken, broken, melted into fundamental pieces, and reforged into a scimitar inlaid with semi precious stones and not at all useful for anything cutting adjacent.
I think, perhaps, there’s a story/rationale in here around PTSD and how thoroughly someone’s spirit can be broken when they undergo unrelenting trauma. Wilhelm, in particular, has been forced to endure some really horrific experiences ((view spoiler)) but the book oddly glosses over them in a way that makes them not entirely responsible for his decisions. Jack’s odd parasitic/co-dependent relationship with the Enchantress and his foster sister Lucia, on the other hand, is given more space to grow and as a result holds more of the plot interest.
I think a book entirely from the POV of Jack would have made for more tension and interest, but insofar as this is a book where the homophobes and racists lose–sign me up for all the historic revision.