When I looked at the cover and blurb on NetGalley for The Revenant Express, I expected a classic mystery in a Steampunk setting. My expectations were very wrong and that colored my impressions of the book. Note that I had not looked up anything on the series before getting it. Perhaps I should have, but I dislike risking having my impressions potentially colored by anything beyond what the book itself offers and how the author or publisher blurb it. But having looked it up might have corrected my expectations (I’ve still not done so. I want my review not influenced by the impressions of others).
I was aware that I was going into a series further in without having read the earlier ones. In this case, I do recommend reading others first, probably in order. It was not a book that excelled at subtly filling in missing details, although I appreciated that it also didn’t have info dumps. But this lack of background didn’t make me want to run away. It just added some frustrations and confusion. Some details I figured out further in and some I never felt properly informed on.
So if the book wasn’t a typical mystery, what was it? It felt more like a thriller with the types of suspense and some of the POVs used. It was less about solving things or answering questions and more about a lot of stuff happening quickly with danger involved. The big question was who would survive and who would die.
I’m not a huge thriller fan. That’s my taste playing into how I rate and enjoy a book. On that front, there was nothing wrong with it but the book and I weren’t a good fit. I do like Steampunk normally, although this one has elements I don’t consider normal to the genre. Some of those contributed to how it fit me a bit less as a reader.
However, while I was reading some of these scenes that most definitely pushed beyond my limits of what I enjoy reading, the writing was so compelling that I couldn’t put it down. I read the entire thing in one sitting (not that that’s unusual with me). But even when my brain was screaming, “eeek! This is too much for me,” I couldn’t take a break from it or skim it. The writing was just too powerful.
The timeline confused me a good bit initially. I kept flipping back and forth, studying the headers on date (which only appeared on a few early chapters in the ARC I read but that might be changed in the final version), and trying to make sense of things. From a few deductions I made in the closing scene, I suspect this may be clearer to those who have read the earlier books but I can’t be certain.
Finally, I hate hook endings. This book does not end on a cliffhanger–it resolves the primary and secondary interlocking external arcs of the book. But then it continues with a teaser hooking you into the next book. While I realize other readers may enjoy or not mind that, I do and it does impact my rating negatively.
Overall, I end up somewhere around 3.5 stars for this book. Better than average for the great writing and creativity but held back by the hook ending and the fact that I turned out not to be the right reader for this book. I am sure the book will be a far more satisfying read to someone who loves what the book is. I don’t want to risk spoilers with any details. But I definitely recommend that you consider reading earlier books in the series before this one.