The Choir Boats is an excellent example of great but flawed book.I was taken aback when I saw this novel classified as YA. It feels nothing like modern YA. I was reminded of Verne when I was reading it. It's not exactly copying anything, but the general atmosphere just feels like it. Another great influence seems to be Tolkien, and it's Tolkien's influence as it should be; inspiration, not direct copying of tropes. There is no pseudo-medieval world or Hero's Quest here. Rabuzzi just took notes about some techniques.The success of implementing them, however, will depend on your taste. He invented a language, but I cannot say more about it before getting my hands on any source that describes the process. He didn't put in a big glossary at the end - relevant parts will be translated in-universe for readers' benefit a couple of times, so no worries about comprehension. I'm not sure how I feel about the songs. Overall, writing just seems unpolished. I cannot put my finger on anything, but it just feels like there is something missing. I was not fond of direct references to works like Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.What is it that sets this book apart from the rest? Well, it's low fantasy in alternate universe Victorian England involving search for the Great Southern Continent - the titular Yount. Not really a subject tackled nowadays. There is some steampunk, mathematics plays a great part, but there is also magic (musical). However, search for utopia is subverted. It's possible that utopia might be gained eventually, but all people will have to work for it. Not just manually; the change in the way of thinking seems necessary.And that's where the most prominent theme comes in. Rabuzzi seems to be striving to overcome the borders between gender, race and religion by not merely granting equal rights but blending. There are hints that interracial relationships and children born out of them are key to the future. Likewise, it's contrasting our religions, governed by divine fathers to Yountian religion, governed by a mother. Through comparisons, it seems like they all share the same elements, just interpreted differently. It's likely that the truth will turn out to be halfway between. The Queen wears trousers and female characters are as significant as male and just as capable, be it combat or mathematics. I'm not qualified to judge how well Rabuzzi is doing this and if it's offensive to someone. As far as it extends to me, I'm pleased with female characters. The only YA-ish element, in hindsight, is the love triangle. However, it's in the background and not made center of the universe despite much more going on. It's also a genuine choice, not one villified on the account of the other. And the girl at the center of it has her priorities straight.Another reason why it didn't feel like YA for me is that young people involved are mature and adults are actively involved - very realistic considering the time period and, well, plain logic. Teenagers might end up saving the world, but they will need the backing.I'm sorry I didn't hear of this book before. I'm sorry it's overlooked. I wouldn't have even heard of it if I didn't win the sequel on NetGalley. I'm looking forward to it because I suspect my favourite character, only present in the interludes here, will play a big part in it.