For all the steampunk fantasy I've been recently, as well as traditional Western medieval fantasy, this was one that stood out as having its own voice, something to say about that genre, and that incorporated literature and intrigue in interesting ways. It's not a perfect book, but the voice of the author is strong, and I forgive the small faults because the overall ideas and characters are so interesting.
Incorporating elements from some of the wackier conspiracy theories I've heard, England, under Queen Victoria, is ruled by lizards. That's not a metaphor. On Caliban's Island, early explorers discovered intelligent lizards, who are now the ruling royal family. How exactly that happened is not really explained, and that's one of the small flaws.
Some people in London don't like being lorded over by lizards, and resist, through poetry, or, if you're the Bookman, through bombs. That look like books.
This book is populated with fictional characters, mostly references to Shakespeare, or directly drawn from Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed this quite a lot, although I was never quite convinced that Irene Adler would characterize herself as being on the "side of order." But Moriary as the prime minister, and Sherlock's strange interventions into the story were fun.
Orphan, the main character, is a mixture of Hamlet and Orpheus, and has to go on quite the quest to regain his lost love. Along the way, he discovers that not only are there humans and lizards, there are also intelligent automatons, perhaps sparked by the lizards, the Bookman, or other forces, and they'd like to be recognized as autonomous beings as well.
Orphan has to go on a quest to find Caliban's Isle, and what is there, and what's behind the lizardine schemes, I'm not going to go into here.
I did find the book sort of wrapped up hastily and a little unsatisfactorily. A little more explanation might have helped, or more action, or something. But the abrupt ending, occasional lack of explanation, and Irene Adler aside, I enjoyed this one quite a lot.