From page 1 to around 200, I was also in the "meh" school of thought about this book. At least the use of "&" vs "and" got explained on page 163, which is basically the main reason I continued to read to that point, otherwise I was ready to give up on the book. Around the halfway point I discovered I was actually invested in the story and wanted to continue reading to find out how it would end for Sham and the Shroakes. It's a decent novel in the end, but it takes some getting used to with the completely new vocabulary to learn and the very slow start to any real action. Not my favourite book by any means, but good enough that I'll try one of the author's other more lauded novels.