The first of the Thursday Next books, introducing to the rather wacky world she lives in. Wacky and weird even by fantasy standards. A stand-alone novel.
Thursday Next's father was in ChronoGuard until he rebelled and was eradicated from history -- which doesn't keep him from showing up now and again. Often at inconvenient moments, especially since he stops time dead in its tracks while he's there.
Thursday herself works in a different branch of SpecOps: Literary Detectives. Tracking down false first editions of Wordsworth and counterfeit Shakespeare. (This, mind you, is a word where Baconians go door to door to evangelize their views, and surrealists and French impressionists have come to violence.) Once she managed to insert herself into Jane Eyre and change the events, but she's pretty convinced that it was a dream -- until the events of this book. Like most readers, she likes the book but disapproves of the end, with Jane going off to India and no notion of what happened to Mr. Rochester.
The Crimea war is in its 131st year, and Thursday lost her brother there. Also her fiance. The fiance came back, though his leg didn't, but he also testified that the fiasco that killed many more soldiers than her brother, was caused by her brother sending the forces down the wrong valley.
Meanwhile, her uncle Mycroft invents a Prose Portal that allows his wife to go into "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud".
And the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen by a terrible villain.
Believe it or not, all this comes together to make