Let me just start out by saying, I hate spiders! This book was FILLED with them! Ugh, knowing they're oversized, can talk, will bite or eat at any given will, ugh, there were many times it was hard to get to sleep at night!
With that being said, The Tinker King didn't disappoint in terms of plot, antagonist and storyline! If you liked what you saw in the first book, you may also fall in love with this one. I still think the first book is better in terms of goals, but I loved the my boo Syrus was the leading man, and had a hell of a great antagonist!
If you haven't read the first book, I'll fill you in on some details(hopefully spoiler free of course). The Tinker King is the sequel to The Unnaturalists, a steampunk alternative universe that mirrors 18th-19th century London(I don't know, it's hard to say how long this new world has existed) as Charles Darwin opened a portal that created a parallel universe, in which dwellers of this world know of the Old London, but rarely speak of it, in favor of the New London.
Supernatural creatures are somewhat normalized, and magic is both forbidden and selfishly used by those who ban it. Chinese culture is the biggest non-European cultural influence, as an ethnic group known as Tinkers(those with spiritual ties to the Unnaturals, and also oppressed people who are known for being extremely handy).
I still enjoyed the world building, it doesn't fall any less short from the original when it comes to painting the world, and how it's different from ours. I liked the pacing for the most part, but I will say, I preferred Syrus' chapters to Vespa's. His chapters always seemed more exciting than hers for some reason, though Im not sure why.
I liked the back story of the Tinker King, and how it meshes with the current mission of the characters. I did think the ending could've been a little tighter. I liked it, but it ended pretty soon, the ending battle seemed a little rushed.
I love both Syrus and Vespa. I think what I liked about them most, is that they were just friends. Colleagues. Nothing less or more. I liked that it didn't feel the need to cause an unnecessary love triangle between them. It's nice to see two main characters who aren't each other's goals in terms of love. Both characters of color no less.
I think they're both strong, well-written characters, but much like the original, their POV is slightly different. While the first book featured Vespa in 1st person, and Syrus in 3rd, the Tinker King does the opposite. Syrus takes the lead as the 1st person narrator, while Vespa hops in the back seat and narrates in 3rd person.
For me, 1st person makes me feel closer to the character. I like both, but I feel as if I could easily be in the party of the group, where Im actually there, vs. 3rd person, where Im being told everything. Syrus was a great leading man. He was selfless, but selfish. Brave, yet afraid. Intelligent, but humble enough to know when he didn't have the answer. He was becoming a man, and I liked to see his growth from a pickpocketing thief, to a full-fledged main protagonist.
This book also had the best antagonist in the friggin world. Ximu, an Unnatural(The malevolent kind) an enemy to the Tinkers, and not for nothing, an enormous, disgusting, manipulative were-spider.
That's right, you read that right. Were-Spider. They got were-spiders out here y'all...
Ximu wasn't just some mission-less antagonist who wanted nothing but destruction(even though she did kinda want that too). She wanted her home, the home the original Tinker King had taken from her, and was ready to seek vengeance after being trapped in isolation for so long.
That provided plenty of conflict, but the best conflict in the book, you really have to read to find out!
I didn't have any major issues with the editing. The formatting was industry standard, and I tend to say this with every steampunk title I read, but while the language can be confusing, it suits the book.
Again, with the POV, I preferred Syrus to Vespa's narration, but they were both understood.
I think as far as diversity goes, if Im being honest, Vespa and Syrus are the only real characters of color who are main characters. If you want interesting female representation, the Empress, Olivia was still a great character. But like the first book, the Tinkers were lesser characters than the white folk.
I loved that Vespa and Olivia were really good friends without having to result to disliking each other because that's how mainstream expects two girls in a book to act. Like their common enemies.
There is a bunch of interracial pairings that I liked. Syrus and Olivia reminded me a bit of a couple I have that are in a WIP I have, so maybe that's why I liked their pairing. Vespa and Bayne seemed to be taken with each other, so while I thought they weren't as interesting together in comparison, they were still cute.
But as far as representation with, the ones who showed up were good, but there weren't many invitations.
The cover and the title are the main reasons I bought the book. They tease diversies like me, who love and melt over a gorgeous man of color on a book.
Character names...Eh. I think outside of the main characters, they were hard to remember, because they were so plain. I get the times they lived in, but then again, since they were New London, a place of magic and sh*t, I can't think of any reason not to have eye catching names, so I took off a quarter point.
I think with the character descriptions, they're done descriptive enough for me, but Bayne? They mentioned his eye color too much for me. It seems as though every book has a black haired, blue eyed love interest, and nearly every book boyfriend looks the same. In fact, because Bayne looks like so many heroes I've read, much like the first book, I pictured him East Asian(because obviously he'd be way hotter) unless it took me out of the fantasy and reminded me his eyes were blue again(which was a lot).
Nothing major, just, brown eyes still work too ya know!