Elizabeth Barnabus could be mistaken for a proper lady doing the best with limited means, especially with her brother working so hard at nights as a private detective. The thing is, she doesn't have a brother. Instead, with some level of misdirection, disguise, and intelligence, she plays a man's game with cunning and guile. Fortunately, she has this a plenty, for although the pretence of having a brother has kept her safe, her 'brother' is a wanted man.
I like what Mr. Duncan has done in this story. The world of The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is something of an steampunk-esque alternative-history that doesn't feel cliche. Perhaps, most interestingly, the true villain of the story remains largely a specter, a real threat to Elizabeth's freedom and well-being, but it is the normal people, not necessarily of ill-intent, that she must work with and against to achieve her goals.
In light of modern day issues with patent-trolling, awarding of ridiculously broad patents, and other issues related to patents in the U.S., I found the idea behind the patent office in The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter brilliant. The commentary may be accidental or deliberate, but fitting regardless.
Characters have contrasting and competing desires, and the plot does not revolve solely around the needs of Elizabeth. If anything, Elizabeth's story is just a part of a bigger one, one connected across the different countries by the Patent Office and politics. The story ends at a good place, however it is still clear even without the subtitle ("The First Book in the Fall of the Gaslit Empire duology") that this is a book one.
A good level of intrigue, wit, and complexity making for an overall enjoyable read.
Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.