Imagine you had the means to bend and form another person's will as easily as plasticine, or the knowledge of how to conserve your memories in a way to relive them again and again, as intensive as the first time. Better yet, what if you could relive the most debauched memories of others as if they were your own? What could you do with such a valuable ability - take over the world? Well, why not - especially if you're a party of bored, rich nobility and bourgeoisie with nothing better to do.
Into this stumbles our ensemble, consisting of two gentlemen (to use the term quite loosely, scandalously even), and one young lady. Our trio start off with separate reasons and in fact do not cross paths for a considerable amount of time. The unlikely adventurers in question are as follows:
- Miss Temple, a constrained, if internally rebellious young woman, wants her fiancé back - or, at the least, a good reason as to why he quite suddenly and perhaps even rudely terminated their engagement. And after what appeared to be a rather functional relationship, no less.
- Cardinal Chang, the man with a bright red coat and scars from a riding crop that give him his nickname. His real name is never revealed, in fact, nor the full extent of his motives. Chang is what one might call a hitman, if a noble one, someone with loose morals yet a defined code of honor. He, out of principle, wants to know who killed his latest mark ahead of him and why...
- Captain-Surgeon Dr. Abelard Svenson is the superego of the group. Querulous at times, Svenson nonetheless, as a military man, has a good sense of survival. His reasons for becoming embroiled are his charge, a wayward, libertine Prince of his country who has gone rather, well, missing...
After finally meeting up under most curious circumstances, they band together in order to get their answers, and find themselves discovering much more than they ever wanted to know - or were ever meant to.
These books provide examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: For a sheltered heiress from an island, Miss Temple kicks some serious ass.
- All Men Are Perverts: All princes in these novels, at least.
- Ambition Is Evil: Roger Bascombe could be a posterboy for this trope.
- Chekhov's Gun: Cardinal Chang's trauma comes to play a significant role near the conclusion.
- Collapsing Lair: Well, it's more like a collapsing airship.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Crabbe, though technically he is a corrupt minister.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Dr. Svenson and Chang's backstories are far from happy.
- Determinator: Chang, as well as Francis Xonk in the second book.
- Even the Girls Want Her: While still searching for her fiancé, Miss Temple can't help getting all tingly in the Contessa's presence.
- Evil Genius: Oskar Veiland's the Comte d'Orkancz paintings suggest he is this.
- Eye Scream: Chang had a nasty run-in with a noble a few years back.
- Fetus Terrible: Whatever it was that Lydia was impregnated with. Fortunately for the world - and perhaps for Lydia - she doesn't live to birth it.
- Femme Fatale: The Contessa di Laquer-Sforza, probably the most beautiful and dangerous person you'll ever meet.
- Hitman with a Heart: Cardinal Chang, who has a fondness for poetry and one particular whore at the brothel whom he goes to great lengths to rescue. Unfortunately, he's unsuccessful.
- Humanoid Abomination: The 'glass women'.
- Also, whatever thing Lydia was impregnated with.
- Manchurian Agent: The people who have undergone the process.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: The doctor tries hard. Though he still fails in the end.
- Not Quite Dead: Chang more than once, also the Contessa and Francis Xonk in the second book
- Only Mostly Dead: The Comte d'Orkancz gets a new body from the soul within his book in the sequel
- Not So Different: The Contessa insists this is true for Celeste and herself.
- Phlebotinum-Handling Equipment: Touch a glass book without gloves and you'll get sucked in.
- Ransacked Room: More than one, on both sides.
- Scars Are Forever: Played straight with Chang's eyes, to which he owes his name, and Miss Temple's bullet scar. The Process, however, leaves no marks that don't fade over the course of a few days.
- Secret Circle of Secrets: The cabal only their leaders know what exactly is going on.
- And even then, many of those leaders are conspiring against one another.
- The Atoner: Doctor Svenson still can't forgive himself for not being there when his cousin was ill, only to discover later that the disease killing her was part of the Cabal's plan.
- Transferable Memory: The titular glass books serve as memory containers.
- Trigger Phrase: Every victim of the Process has their own but only the Contessa knows about them.