Thomas Blades, a meek 17th-century curate, finds a magical portal and steps through into an alternate England where humans live in burrows underground, oppressed by the quasi-human and beastly savage Null. Blades has two advantages: education, and a few muskets that he brings back on his second trip. Empire ensures. Messily.
Whitbourn's a little too fond of his own jokes, and finds plenty of time for wordplay and sly asides. The plot is well-paced and witty, though, and there are some interesting extrapolations. I didn't especially like Blades until the end, when he realises that amid all the empire-building and war -- against the Null, against some technologically-superior strangers from across the western ocean, against his own family -- he's left himself behind.
This is the beginning of a trilogy, and I'll probably hunt down the other two books at some stage -- it'd be interesting to see how some of the foreshadowing plays out -- but it didn't grab me the way I was hoping to be grabbed once I'd read the first page.
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place