Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2015
A new version of Cinderella, one that combines the magic of fairies and the mechanics of steampunk. It’s also a version where the archetype Cinderella is self-empowering, relying on her own intellect and gumption to rescue her self.
Nicolette ‘Mechanica’ Delacourt Lampton, motherless by 9 years old, her father remarries and brings home an ice-cold stepmother and two peckish stepsisters. Nicolette has early hopes they will be one big happy family, but that is not to be. After her father dies, the housekeeper is dismissed and Nicolette is designated the cook, housekeeper and seamstress. She spends the next six years or so going through the motions of life in a grief filled fog. On her 16th birthday she discovers her mother’s workshop and hope and secretly begins to craft her future through imaginative machines and inventions.
Caroline “Caro” Hart, Nicolette’s best friend whom she meets on her first Market Day to sell her creations.
Fin, young man with a deep secret, whom she also meets along with Caro and with whom she falls in love with.
Jules, a mechanical horse that magically comes to life – not as a real horse – but as a real mechanical horse that still needs coal to function.
Lady Halving, Nicolette’s stepmother, deeply religious and cruel, she forces Nicolette to do all the chores in the house without any other help.
Piety and Chastity, Nicolette’s stepsisters and a couple of years older, enjoy tormenting her as much as possible. It is they who give her the nickname “Mechanica” – which she later embraces.
The story is told in first person throughout, which for me is annoying. It doesn’t allow for much character development of anyone else in the story. First person is okay in a short story but can become tedious in a novel if not written well.
The premise is new to me – the combining of steampunk and fairies but it is done well. Just think of it – machines with a little extra kick (or life) because of fairy magic. The author approaches subjects of existential androgyny (there are no male/female fey – they think their offspring into existence) as well as prejudices (the banning of fairies and all things fey because a member of royalty dies from fey magic). It definitely feels like a second book is in the offing as she didn’t fully resolve several issues (including an approaching war and other fey magic).
Rating: 3 paws out of 5 for imaginative story telling. Though the story was good, I didn’t care for the first person perspective throughout the whole book. I won’t reread this one, nor will I be reading any sequels (at least I don’t think so!). Although the cover is a 4.5 paws because it is quite lovely.
Also by Ms Cornwell:
Here are some steampunk images (from the internet) – maybe Mechanica designed them!: