I think this is the first novel-length story that I've read where the protagonist is neither a "good guy" nor particularly admirable for her decisions. Marla Mason is a sorceress of all trades, and her attitude is tending more towards neutral evil. She is harshly pragmatic about the moral choices she makes, and is so blunt-spoken she could make early-Anita Blake squirm.
The plot lends itself to this character, and this setting, very well. We meet Marla on her way into San Francisco. She is looking for The Cornerstone of San Francisco, which will help her stop another sorceress from removing her as ruler of Felport. In the search for The Cornerstone, Marla's path crosses with another sorcerer who wants the 'Stone for his own purposes, and the contest ensues. There are various adult themes, a few short sexual references, and a lot of running around in San Francisco. But this is not the San Francisco of October Daye. This San Francisco is full of hotels, house parties, and tourist attractions, as well as magical pockets of neverwhere.
In all of the fighting and destruction, Marla makes the most pragmatic decisions - we see it happen - and we see all of the consequences of those decisions. In choosing to do things her way, she does not see the higher moral picture, or stop to sacrifice time or energy to help out anyone else. Sometimes, those choices don't matter, and at least once, the choice becomes a painful-to-me lesson in honor and keeping faith.
As far as actual product satisfaction goes, I'm pretty pleased. The easy-outs that occur just before and then during the big final chase/fight/chase scenes are set up well ahead of time, so I wasn't quite groaning in Munchkin-induced pain. I admit that, while resolution of the ending is not quite the gimmie that it might have been if Pratt hadn't been so careful to drop in one of the characters earlier on in the story, it is still a bit annoying.
I recommend this book to Urban Fantasy readers who enjoyed the first four Anita Blake books, who like Kate Daniels, or are interested in alternate views on San Francisco.
Why I picked it: The prequel, Bone Shop, was featured in Opening Acts, which is the first chapters of 25 books (available for free download). When I went out and read reviews of Bone Shop, most of them recommended that I start with the first published book in the series rather than the first book in chronological order. So I did.
New-to-me Books for 2012
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan, YA fantasy. 282 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); straight into the giveawaybox
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey, Fantasy. 404 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 2/5 stars on Goodreads (2 = "it was OK"), 3/5 stars on Amazon (3 = "it was OK"); straight into the giveawaybox
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, Urban fantasy. 336 pages; paperback; first in the series. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); going to keep it around and loan it to friends