This book was everything I've been hoping for with every other m/m fantasy I've tried. It had a fascinating and detailed world (one that I LOVED getting to visit, and can't wait to return to!), an intricate and fabulously well-developed mythology, and characters that I not only cared about, but actually liked.
I especially loved the pacing of this book. It's longer than most m/m, but it didn't feel like it. I thought the various revelations of history and back story on things like witches and alchemists and the Lady and the Lord and the androghenie and the Houses and their daemons and demons were fabulously well-timed and gave me just what I needed to know without going on too long.
But I think my favorite thing about this is that even though it could certainly be considered "dark fantasy," there was enough light throughout that the darkness never felt overpowering. Things like White Charles's visits, and Timothy's beautiful and inspiring love, and Madeline's forgiveness offset all of the darker things and the story never felt oppressive or hopeless.
One of the very few things that I didn't love about this story was that the Emily/Stephen story line felt rushed and underdeveloped. I understand how difficult it must be to fit three complete relationships into any book--even one with over 160,000 words--but I didn't really believe the two of them. Emily had more chemistry with Timothy than she did with Stephen, for crying out loud! It almost felt as though they were thrown in as an afterthought to get some of the other characters out of tight spots.
Overall, though, I adored this book. It was absolutely fun to read and I honestly loved getting to spend time in this world and getting to know these characters. Timothy was certainly working his way onto my favorite-fictional-characters-of-all-time list, and his decision near the end both broke my heart and gave me hope that he and Charles can finally find the happiness together that they've not been able to yet. I can't wait to see where Ms. Cullinan will take me in the next books!