The beginning naturally called up the usual JS&MN, Lud-in-the-mist, and, rather less, Temeraire associations; the end made me wonder if Zen Cho has also read 12 Kingdoms and 100 Demons, because those echoes were even stronger to me. I wish she'd kicked her heels up a bit more during the book, but I don't know that kicking up heels has ever been one of afrai's characteristics. Pitch-perfect voice and low-key action is more her thing, at least when writing western fandoms. Her Malaysian stories had a distinct amount of energy and unexpectedness to them- or possibly I thought so because I'm not acquainted with Malaysian tropes.
It was refreshing, nonetheless, to have a hero who displays proper pre-modern virtues, of the sort Jane Austen would have approved if possibly not written herself, and not an Austen-looking figure given a large helping of ego to make him palatable to modern audiences. Laurence is close to the ideal as well, but his virtues are more water-colour than Zacharias'. I admit Zacharias may look water-colour to us in his exquisite filial loyalty and gentlemanly reserve, but to me he fits perfectly into an Augustan tradition of virtue, from the earlier pre-Romantic (and pre-Austonian) period; he'd do nicely in A Sentimental Journey, say, and I'm sure Dr Johnson had similar examples to give somewhere. (If I wish he'd had a Stephen Black moment of apotheosis-- well, I'm a 21st century reader.)