This was really pleasurable steampunk fiction, ladies and gents. Not steampunk-ish which is pretty popular these days, but something that was full of delightful cogs and gadgets, and with a whole empire running on steam. Loved it!
Steven Harper, Meljean Brook and Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris come to mind. So if you enjoyed their books, you shouldn't have a problem liking A Study in Silks.
There are three elements which made this book for me.
First of all, British Empire is ruled by a council of greedy corporations providing steam, electricity and gas to all the households. They stop any other inventions from being patented and ruthlessly suppress all progress in the name of their profits. Reminds you of something else?
Secondly, Evelina and other characters are proper inventors. They create something awesome and bizarre because they are obsessed with science, but at the same time they have to keep it all quiet so not to get on the radar of steam barons.
Thirdly, the magic exists and is reviled or prohibited to use because again steam council doesn't want magic competing with their services. You can burn or made into a laboratory rat if you are accused of being a witch.
Add to these awesome elements Evelina's circus past, her famous uncle Sherlock and her magical abilities, and this girl really knows how to get into trouble!
Secondary characters are not one dimensional and quite intriguing as well. Tobias and Imogen Roth, Bucky Penner (who absolutely charmed me), Dr. Marcus, Keating and of course, Nick. Great bunch, and I'm pretty sure they all will have their own stories developed along with Evelina's in following books.
My only complaint is that there are a lot of slow passages and inner monologues in the book interspersed with action, and while they might be good on their own, I was way more invested in finding out what happens next and skimmed through quite a few of them.
Otherwise, knock yourself out and read this. I'm on book two now.