It plays out like every decent series finale should: reuniting your favourite characters, wrapping up loose ends, darting around the globe, jacking up the action and raising the stakes to sheer Armageddon.
Narration is back in the hands of Cadwallander, the metal-armed Watson to Professor Sedgewick’s Sherlock Holmes, after a slight detour in book five.
...although that might be over-simplifying the narrative. Thanks to an experimental but brilliant narrative device, Cadwallander (and therefore the reader) is able to experience the viewpoints of several different characters, such as "seditionist adventuress" Mina Saxena and the iron-lunged Grand Duke Alexei Mikhailovich. This head-hopping makes for an exciting pace, as we are introduced to exotic locations and new characters at adrenaline-pumping speed.
Fans of the series, of which there are many, will enjoy the references to the previous instalments. The first two chapters alone reference The Angels of the Abyss, The Bridge to Lemuria and The Shadow Under London. The reappearance of Chioa Khan, the ten-year old Maurits Escher and Queen Victoria herself is very welcome and meets the steampunk expectation of presenting genuine historical figures in a fictional context.
As we now expect, Grant's world is overflowing with invention. A particular highlight are the auto-matichesky-chelovek, essentially men controlled by "engine-driven, punch card-controlled braces" which bind their bodies and force them to carry out tasks. We learn that many men die in this condition but the braces continue to move their limbs, so "the dead [can] dig as well as the living." Chilling stuff.
The finale is superb, taking place two-hundred miles above Mount Kilimanjaro on an orbital docking station, and literally takes the series to nail-biting new heights.
The Herald of the Ancients is a fitting end to Grant's steampunk magnum opus. I only hope Netflix commission a mini-series because this would be great on screen.