Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset 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.

Hardcover, 473 pages

Published May 24th 2011 by Harlequin Teen (first published January 1st 2011)

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

There was a lot to love with The Girl in the Steel Corset.  I felt that this book blended historical fiction with science fiction better than any other I've read before, which is what I always expected of steampunk but hadn't gotten so far.  It was like if H. G. Wells and The X-men had a baby, in the best way possible (because let’s not lie, H. G. Wells and the X-Men making a baby could go seriously wrong).  I would classify the book as steampunk adventure if I had to nail it down, since that is what the book truly was: an adventure.  We explore Kady Cross' steampunk vision of Victorian London hunting down The Machinist -- a despicably superb villain -- all while meeting delicious characters, discovering steam and gear gadgets, and looking good in the delicately put together ensembles the author creates for her characters.

The prose was wonderfully fluid while fitting the time period -- something I feel is needed in a steampunk or historical fiction novel.  I don't like words out of time, where the prose doesn't fit the intended time period.  But with Kady Cross, I definitely did not have that problem.  The only issue with the prose I had was that it seemed wordy at time, which I attributed to it being very telling when it could have been showing.  The author would sometimes directly describe what was happening instead of animating the world with her words.  It make the book a bit less immersive than I would like, but it wasn't unbearable.

I loved our girl in the steel corset, Finley Jayne, but with her being the subject of the title, I had expected more of her.  More from her point of view, more with her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde duality, more of her in the story.  While our events start with her entering the picture for the rag-tag group surrounding Duke Griffin Greythorne, the book encircles the entire group rather than focusing on Finley.  The exploration of her dual being was extremely cut short as there is so much that could've happened and didn’t.  I thought that it was a bit disappointing, especially in the romantic category.  There are the beginnings of a love triangle based on the two sides of her personality that simply seemed to fall apart. 

Though I could never feel so much of a firm grip on Finley's unique personality (or personalities), the rest of the cast was much better defined.  The other characters have their own quirks and abilities, adding to their own character and relationships with the group.  The group was well balanced and thought out -- very enjoyable to read.  You could really understand the different relationships and feelings between characters.  I particularly liked Sam and Emily, with his brute force and her the genius mechanic.  Their friendship laced with tragedy slowly blossoming into something more was beautiful, and I hope their relationship with be further explored in sequels.  That, and I mean, who doesn't love a red-head with a brain to boot? 

The Girl in the Steel Corset has left me with high expectations for the sequel, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar.  I'm very much so interested in seeing how the author expands her steampunk world to New York City and getting to know a few more additions to the cast. 

Final Thought: 3 out of 4 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

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