If you have never read any of the Thursday Next series, I recommend that you NOT start with this one. Even the author, on his (content-heavy but challenging to navigate) website suggests that this series be read in order, and despite the First Among Sequels subtitle, this is actually the fifth novel featuring Thursday. Go back and start with The Eyre Affair and work your way through Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten before you return to this book. It will be worth it, if you love reading, clever plots, imaginative action, and bad puns.
I love this series, and it was great to meet up with Thursday Next, intrepid Literary Detective, once again. Well, she's no longer officially a Literary Detective, since SpecOps has been shut down, but she and her former SpecOps colleagues are still helping to keep the world safe for (and from) fiction from behind the guise of Acme Carpets. She's also still working to keep the world safe within fiction as a Jurisfiction agent in the BookWorld, and as the LBOCS (Last Bastion of Common Sense) on the Council of Genres. In addition to this, she's a very happily married working mother of two (or is it three?).
If I had to pick one thing I like best about this series - besides the action, story development, humor, and creative use of public-domain characters - it's probably how meta it gets sometimes. One of the central threads of this book is Thursday's encounters with two different fictional versions of herself; novels have been written about her adventures. (They happen to have the same titles and basic plots as the books Jasper Fforde has written about Thursday Next, but there are a lot of deviations in plot points and character development.) Then there's discussion of Storycode Engines, core-containment chambers, and book engineering - it fascinates me to see how what we see as a creative endeavor can be reframed as a construction industry.
I really can't reveal too many of the details for fear for both spoilers and causing general confusion, but in addition to Thursday's experiences with other versions of herself, First Among Sequels involves classics being rewritten as reality television (a suggested solution to the "stupidity surplus"), cheese smugglers, a serial killer, and the looming End of Time - and more. But the overriding concern of Thursday and her colleagues is the decline of readership; decreasing attention spans mean that people are spending less and less time reading books, and this is justifiably seen as a tragedy that must be reversed. As a writer, Jasper Fforde is doing his best to help stop that trend and keep the world safe for bookaholics, and we who read should really appreciate him for that.