Improves as it goes.
I picked up this book with somewhat high expectations, and at first I was disappointed by it. It seemed too flashy, trying to impress the reader with its 'bad-ass' world and characters without providing much depth. I often found my suspension of disbelief tested (that much crime and death in a city of 88,000?). However, the book's cliches were at least the sort of cliche that makes for an exciting story, so I read on.
I was glad I did. The tale soon delved deeply into the lives of the main characters, with flashbacks that were just as interesting as the main plot-line. And I have to give the author credit-he was NOT afraid to embroil our heroes in some truly sticky situations. Before long, the depth of the trouble that the Gentlemen Bastards (the small gang of thieves that are the story's protagonists) had gotten into was truly astounding. I became more and more engaged. Even bits of world-building that had seemed annoyingly frivolous or implausible at the beginning of the book took on new facets.
By the end of the novel I was completely engrossed; I cared about the characters, and furthermore, I believed every word, action, and detail on the page. I will definitely be picking up the second book of this series in the near future.