The Custodian of Marvels is a satisfying capper to the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy.
Heroine Elizabeth Barnabus, on the run and in dire straits, joins forces with a former enemy for a mad plan: break into the stronghold of the feared International Patent Office. Elizabeth hopes to uncover evidence that will free her from the grasping Duke of Northampton. But the elaborate heist hits several roadblocks, putting Elizabeth and her allies into serious jeopardy, even as they uncover the treachery at the heart of the Gas-Lit Empire.
Writer Rod Duncan provides a rousing finale to the alterna-history saga he began in The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter. The Custodian of Marvels delves into some keys aspects of its world’s peculiar history, while tying up the trilogy’s major plot points. Elizabeth remains a compelling focal point, intelligent and strong-willed, but also stubborn and occasionally short-sighted. The bonds that form among Elizabeth and her oddball allies are endearing, while Duncan wisely doesn’t overplay the romantic sparks between Elizabeth and dashing Patent Office Agent John Farthing, deploying the bond just enough to bring the relationship to a logical turning point by the end.
Duncan’s ability to vividly sketch his alternate world remains a strength of the series. He crafts an almost tangible sense of time and place to envelop his compelling cast. In some ways, the plot plays out like it could be Ocean’s Seven, but that’s not a bad thing. The heist provides the book with a strong spine that keeps the action moving quite effectively. Duncan does a heroic job of giving fans answers about some plot points simmering since book one. Once again, the climax has as much to do with Elizabeth’s ingenuity as anything else. And while Duncan wraps the main story, he leaves the door to this world ajar, keeping open the possibility of a follow-up.
The first two installments of the trilogy are absolutely necessary before turning to The Custodian of Marvels. But for fans of speculative fiction, it will be time well spent.