Release Date: 05/24/11
(I read it via Netgalley)
Published By: Harlequin Teen
The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles) by Kady Cross
In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.
1. (+) Finley Jayne, the Girl in the Steel Corset - Strong female protagonist who nearly kills a man who tries to rape her in the first chapter. Immediately interested? I know I was. And it gets better--Finley is a deeply flawed and sympathetic character--she sticks up for herself and isn't often afraid, or at least, when she is, she has the power to defend herself, something I'm sure most people would want. At the same time, she can lose control and has a hard time trusting people. She was by far the most compelling of all the characters.
2. (+) Other Characters - Griffin: Rich, young, eligible Duke with power to traverse the Aether who is too willing to trust other people, has a bit of a temper and quite the Honor code, and is a tad arrogant probably because of his class plus Emily: brilliant Irish woman who can speak with machines, is a doctor of sorts, and is also soft-hearted plus Sam: strongest man/mandroid who was beaten up by an automaton and had his bones realigned with machine and has quite the temper = an awesome cast of characters. They're really compelling, and my only complaint is that Emily and Griffin are a bit too good to be true. I was trying to think of what their flaws were and the first one I thought of was "too soft-hearted." But that's definitely not a bad thing. At any rate, the characters in this novel and their dialogue with one another was rather entertaining to read.
3. (+) The Writing - Multiple points of view were used and written well (see above aka love of the cast of characters). One of the points of view showed a character doing something he/she shouldn't be (aka talking to who you knew was going to be Villain) and because of this writing technique, Ms. Cross established great suspense.
4. (+) World-building - Organites, Aether, and automatons. The combination of a spiritual world, mining the Earth for organisms that could heal/give us super abilities, and machines made for an interesting steampunk fantasy world that Ms. Cross explores in this novel. What truly makes her world building fantastic, however, is that there is still room for more. There are questions raised about the effects of the Organites, etc. etc. that the characters are just beginning to ask. Readers are brought into their world because of this.
5. (+) The Villain - Though the Machinist was twisted and his nefarious plans a bit too unrealistic, he was still a complex character in that I fully understood and could somewhat sympathize with his plight. But of course, I wouldn't agree with the things he does to achieve his end. Also, because of the multiple points of view, it was obvious who the villain was, which, in turn, made the book more suspenseful since we were left guessing as to what his next move would actually be.
6. (+) No Cliff-hanger - Or, at least, the cliff-hanger isn't so large that you're left wondering what the hell is going to happen in the next book. For all intents and purposes, this cliff-hanger informs readers of the next book's setting and adventure.
7. (+) A Love Triangle That Wasn't Actually Bad - I usually hate love triangles. But at least in this novel, her attraction to them both was semi-explained by her Jekyll-and-Hyde-like condition, and when that issue is resolved, Finley more or less chooses between the two of her romantic interests. It's not really that much of a triangle in the end, and the love interest who wasn't chosen is an interesting character I'd like to see developed more. Even the other love triangle was resolved. (Unless Ms. Cross plans on mixing things up in the next novel, that is.) In general, the romance in this novel was done well.
8. (+) Pacing - The novel was appropriately paced--the galley was 477 pages though it definitely didn't feel like. It wasn't too slow (I didn't look ahead to see what happened) nor was it too fast (the character development and world-building were done well). I wanted to keep reading and didn't feel the time slipping away.
9. (--) Unrealistic - Fantasy worlds are unrealistic, yes, I know, but usually the stakes only affect the fantasy world. Steampunk isn't exactly fantasy, but when there's a threat to the Queen and the regular mortal world, it snaps me back to reality. It makes me feel just how unrealistic the story is. And because this story was set in the Victorian world and Queen Victoria was in danger, I thought about Shanghai Knights, and these two stories cannot / should not ever be compared to one another.
10. (+) The Cover - Has a little bit of the steampunk element with the gears, a very bright and beautiful red dress for the Victorian age, Finley looking mysterious, and the kind of curled font that I always wished I could draw. I like it a lot. If I saw it in a book store, I'd stop and read the summary at least.
This is a book I am now tempted to buy though I have already read the galley. I would most certainly recommend it to all of you. The Girl in the Steel Corset was a fun steampunk mystery filled with a fantasy/sci-fi world that I want to read more about, well-written romance, and incredible heroes.
To see what I mean about Finley Jayne being an awesome character, you can check out the prequel--The Strange Case of Finley Jayne--online for free at Harlequin Teen's website. Though I didn't find the prequel to be as compelling as the novel, I thought it was a good teaser for what's to come.