Girl in the Steel Corset – Kady Cross

29 Jul

Series: Steampunk Chronicles #1
ISBN: 9780373210336
Genre: Steampunk
Audience: Young Adult
Overall Rating: 5/10

Finley Jayne has a dark side that’s struggling to overcome her good one. Dangerous to both herself and those around her, Finley gets in the habit of tossing footmen across rooms and stealing velocycles to meet cockney criminals. When she meets a duke, Griffin, he thinks that he can help her – and that she can help his band of eclectic strays with their own powers. Together they have to track down the Machinist, a person who’s been rigging machines to attack, and find out what he wants with Queen Victoria’s hairbrush and wax likeness from Madame Tussaud’s. With plenty of mystery, action, romance, and supernatural powers, there’s a bit of everything in this steampunk page-turner.

This plot moves along quite nicely, and was a refreshing break from other-world fantasy for me. I haven’t read much steampunk at all (actually, I couldn’t give you another title that I’ve read off the top of my head), so it was a change in genre, too. The mystery kept me intrigued the whole way through, even though I had the identity of the main bad guy picked out quite early on. The battles within the group left me wondering if they were all ever going to get along long enough to solve it. And I certainly didn’t see that ending coming.

Just a small thing – I despised the constant love triangles. Each girl had two guys after her, and while I thought Finley’s chasers were fun and reminiscent of Alanna of Trebond’s problems, I didn’t think Emily needed more problems in her love life. Given the ending, I rather thought that one of the suitors probably had a bit more to worry about than making eyes at a girl whose heart clearly belongs to someone else. I also didn’t like when the girls paused to talk about the boys. While I know that’s what (normal) girls do, it slowed the story down and threw up big neon signs all over the page that said “HEY! Look! There’s a love story in this book! Here are your clues, right here!”

But like I said, the main plot moved along. It was well done and kept me interested throughout. I will be buying the inevitable sequel.

Most of the characters were actually quite enjoyable, too. Finley is strong but delicate in her own way; Emily cute and intelligent; Griffin noble and calculating; Jack cunning and charming; and Jasper, altogether too American and good with a gun. All of these characters have their flaws, which makes them a bit more believable. Their backstories are intertwined and well described. I felt like I knew them, which is always a good sign.

For those of you who have already read the book, you’ll noticed that I missed Sam. Quite frankly, I hated Sam, and not in the good way that I hated Severus Snape for half a book. No. Sam was whiny and emo, traits I find annoying anyway, but I find them particularly heinous when I don’t believe he has any reason to be whiny or emo at all. The author didn’t make me believe he was so upset about being half machine. A flashback to the attack, described in detail rather than just an allusion, may have done his plight some justice. As it was, I groaned each time I came across another “Sam” section and wished very much his brain had been replaced, too.

And just as a general word of caution, one of the major points that knocked this book’s score down was the endless, repetitive character descriptions. This was particularly true of Emily, or maybe I only noticed it because each time I read her name I was jolted from the story since it’s mine, too. Her hair is red and ropey. She is Irish. She is small. You will know this multiple times by page 30, and it only gets worse from there. I’m told constantly in creative writing classes that I need to trust the reader – I don’t need to repeat descriptions. That may be why I’m sensitive to it, as well. I’ve been taught to search it out. It might not bother you, but it was a HUGE bother to me.

Having spent just four months living in London myself, I am in no way an expert. I am also not an expert on the Victorian time period. However, I have read some good books set during that time – that is, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer – and can tell you that this type of setting can be done so much better.

While I understand that it’s steampunk, and thus has the machines and whatnot, I would have appreciated a bit more realism when it came to Victorian speech and mannerisms. I felt like the dialogue was entirely too modern, and places where realistic speech was attempted seemed oddly strained and OVERdone. It was perhaps because of this that mannerisms didn’t seem in tune with the time, either, so I won’t rag on that too much.

As far as London goes, I had a few issues. Again, I’m not an expert on the Victorian time period, so my issues could very well be due to that. One, Griffin states that drinking alcohol messes with his abilities, and half a page later orders a mug of cider. In London these days, cider is very much an alcoholic beverage, despite being only 4-6% proof. Still. Two, after something is stolen from the British Museum, a few of the main characters visit Finley’s parents in Russell Square. Having spent most of my time in the Russell Square area, I know that station is the one at which you “alight for the British Museum.” However, the museum wasn’t so much as thought about during the whole scene. Considering Finley’s barely known to the group and a suspect, for however short a time, I thought it would have been a bit of interesting evidence against her. That’s just one example, but I felt like the geography and culture was somehow off.

Of course, I may have been entirely too spoiled by Patricia C. Wrede.


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