The Detective Chen novels by Liz Williams definitely improve as you go on with the series. The pacing gets faster — I perceive that as an improvement in this case, though as you may know, I don’t always object to a slow pace. Also, the world(s) improve, and although there are a good many pov characters, by this time you know them all and find it perhaps less jarring to switch from one to the next to the next.
There’s still a lot that goes on in the background, much of it out of sight of the reader, who just learns, for example, that No Ro Shi is one of China’s premier demon hunters and has apparently been around for some time because by the way, here he is.
That was how Inari, Chen’s wife, was introduced, you may recall. Oh, by the way, Chen’s wife is a demon. He rescued her from Hell. No need to explain how that happened. Her familiar is a badger who turns into a teapot. Let’s move on.
But by time you get to the 4th book, The Shadow Pavilion, you are probably going to be familiar enough with the world and the primary characters that this kind of thing is easier to take in stride. At least, that’s my perception.
I don’t have much to say about this particular book, except we see a lot more of Inari, there are a lot of tiger demons, and the badger gets a surprisingly large point-of-view role. I’ll wait for a real review until I read the fifth and final book. But I do want to share one tidbit from The Shadow Pavilion simply because it tickled my fancy:
The sky was lightening a little, but it was still night, and Inari took her tea into the main hall of the temple, sitting on a small bench to drink it. She took one of the limited selections of sacred texts from the wall cabinet and read it, or tried to. Such flowery fulsomeness! Praise to the late Emperor cascaded from the page, in a prose so extreme it formed an almost tangible perfume.
Perhaps it’s because I disliked the late Emperor so much that this struck me as especially entertaining.