Three Stars out of Five
Great new setting for steam-punk science fiction: inside a planet-sized balloon of gases (Virga). “Gravity” is inertial, “suns” heat and light local areas of the temperate zone, and the politics and technology is mostly nineteenth century. The characters begin in mystery and opposition but must work together for a greater good. An outsider knows about the evolved technology (and biology) outside the bubble, but her motives and theirs may not coincide. Good plot flow and development.
Having said that the narrative seemed appropriate for young readers except the gratuitous sex. And it was gratuitous, not necessary to plot or character development. (In retrospect, it gave clues to the fate of certain characters.) While mostly only suggestive, its inclusion makes the book unsuitable for younger readers. Likewise the three uses of the F-bomb.
Still, The rating teetered between three and four stars until the end. And end the story did. It didn’t finish, it just stopped. Schroeder came close to a satisfying conclusion, but didn’t deliver. So, unless you’re in for five books, you may be dissatisfied with the series opener.