The Custodian of Marvels by Rod Duncan

The Custodian of Marvels is the third and final book in the Gas-Lit Empire series. In this volume, author Duncan does an excellent job of answering questions about the world and Elizabeth while neatly avoiding overwriting the denouement. The action is fast and furious throughout and this is much more a thriller than an urban fantasy. Admittedly, as much as I loved the other two books, I am not a fan of “Ocean’s 11” type of heist stories and would have preferred more of the fantastical. But Duncan has crafted an intelligent and logical heroine in Elizabeth; following her story has been a treat.

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Story: Elizabeth and Tinker live under the radar on a river barge, trying to make ends meet through small time shipping commissions. But that can only last so long since the Duke is continually raising the bounty on her head and others have taken an interest in what she knows. When the Dwarf Fabublo appears on her boat with a wild offer, Elizabeth sees a way she might be able to defeat both the Duke and the Patent Office once and for all.

As with all good trilogies, smoking guns or side characters from previous volumes unexpectedly become main players by the end. At the same time, other important people in Elizabeth’s life only have 1-2 scenes as they mature and grow apart from her straightened circumstances. But as always, they are all distinctly defined and very unique. Even new characters, as with a keysmith in this volume, are grounded and real. The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire really is about the unique people and how deftly and intelligently they exist in this fantastical world.

There were many riddles to solve: the power behind the Patent Office, Elizabeth’s relationship with the Patent Office Officer, the Duke’s bounty, and the mystery of this alternate universe world. By the end, the answers/solutions/resolutions are all revealed, leaving a very satisfying read. Yes, there are several surprises but the writing is consistently subtle and this is much more a book of nuance than action.

Readers who enjoyed the first two books will find much more of the same strong writing and nuanced characters in The Custodian of Marvels. Duncan has created a winner here and concluded the series masterfully. I am sad to leave the story of Elizabeth behind. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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