Review: The Custodian of Marvels

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The Custodian of Marvels
The Custodian of Marvels by Rod Duncan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fitting end to an excellent trilogy – except that it’s apparently not a trilogy and not the end (says the author! – hooray!). I think it is the best book of the three by a considerable margin – not to say that the others weren’t good, because they were. This one was just so good that I ended up not doing anything I had planned to do, in favour of carrying on reading.

This is essentially a heist book: Elizabeth Barnabus is persuaded to join a gang intending to break into, and steal from, the International Patent Office. It’s known that the IPO keeps examples of “unseemly science” that it deems not conducive to the good of the common man. If some of those marvels could be stolen, the thieves might live very comfortably on the proceeds.

Or the IPO itself might be destroyed…

There is a great deal of action here; for the first time, Elizabeth is taking the initiative – and I think that’s intentional on the part of the author. Elizabeth has spent two books running away – now she can’t run any further, and she can’t hide. The time has come to stand, and to fight back. Which she does.

This book includes many things that I enjoy: intellectual property law; clocks; locks; filing systems. But what I liked the most, I think, were the interactions between Elizabeth and the other gang members, each of whom had their own motivation for joining the heist. They are all real people, with lives outside the book, which have led them to take part such a dangerous plan.

The heist itself does not go as planned (obviously) but what is discovered, and what is left hidden, bring the story to a very interesting end. I find myself wondering whether Duncan intends to leave it there – which he could very well do – or continue it on (now I know he intends to continue – excellent!). There are certainly enough loose ends to support further books in the sequels – but to leave it there would also be satisfying, in a way. Life is not neat and tidy. Most people’s real life stories do not end in such a way, to allow the book to be closed with the knowledge that nothing interesting ever happens to that person again.

But I wonder: what happens when you think that your choice is between death and victory, but you turn out to be wrong? And how do you define victory?

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