Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
Series: The Steampunk Chronicles #1
Published by Harlequin Teen
Pages: 377
Genre: Steam punk (YA)
Rating: Awesome
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Finley Jayne isn't normal. A normal girl couldn't knock a full grown man out with just one punch. A normal girl wouldn't have an alternate personality inside her - one that takes over in moments of high stress and danger. A normal girl couldn't survive a collision with a velocycle. Finley Jayne isn't normal.

And that's exactly why she is offered the chance to be a part of something. To join a group of other uniquely talented people. To save the day.

'Pencils were excellent for hairstyling. They also made a very effective weapon if the need arose.'

If I had heard the author's concept for this book being a cross between the X-Men and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I would have probably felt a lot more secure going into it. However, I didn't. Instead I had heard so many mixed review that I entered this story with a high level of trepidation.

I needn't have worried as I loved this book.

Finley is a very entertaining lead character. Early on in the book her two personalities are fighting for dominance - one of them being very sweet and rather subservient and the other being anything but. I do love the fact that this storyline wasn't dragged out the way I thought it was going to be, especially once I realized that book two follows the same group of people. While I didn't love Finley at first, her personality taking a while to truly grow on me, I really began to adore the girl when her split personality issues started getting resolved. That actually turned her into a very well rounded character - even if it was rather lazy characterization and (for as much as I liked her, I will admit) Finley has something of a Mary-Sue about her.

I look forward to seeing the other characters in the book fleshed out because they were also very fun and I wound up liking every single one of them more than I had expected. First we have Griffin, the leader of our little band of superheroes society misfits. He's a real sweetheart, and it's obvious early on how much he cares for his team. He's also obscenely rich but doesn't act like an entitled bastard. Odd, huh? Then there's Sam, his best friend. He's not the brightest, and tends towards racing into a fight without thinking. And he suffers from being a bit of a hothead. Those are the two guys, along with Finley, that share the narration of the story and I feel that the author did a good job nailing down their voices.

Our other characters consist of: Emily, a young lady that's a mechanical genius - and who, for some reason, reminded me of Kaylee from Firefly. Jack Dandy, a criminal overlord - or is that underlord? - with a habit of butchering the English language. And Jasper, a genuine gun-toting American cowboy that is only a little out-of-place in London. Honestly, as those last three are my personal favorites, I look forward to getting to know more about them and - hopefully - getting inside their heads in the sequels.

The plotline was a mystery/conspiracy that, I will admit, it took the characters way too long to figure out. Add to that the rather cartoonish villain and the book starts feeling more and more like some of those X-Men cartoons from the nineties. Of course, I was never one to watch those cartoons for an amazing plotline, instead focusing on the interplay of the characters as they got along or squabbled. This book works much the same way for me.

While these people were - at least, mostly - friends, that doesn't mean they always get along. It was interesting to see how disagreements would play out and how relationships were formed. As this is a YA novel, there is certainly some romance. Mostly, in this first outing, between two of the supporting characters. While Finley does find herself in a bit of a love triangle, I thought it was handled wonderfully.

You see, Finley actually finds herself more attracted to a different guy depending on which personality of hers is predominate. I'm not sure it would actually work that way, but it's an interesting idea. Everyone involved, from both 'love interests' to Finley herself, are quite aware of how common it is for the girl to choose the 'bad boy' type. For bonus points, they also all realize how bad of an idea that usually is. As a reader that has read just enough YA novels to get feed up with the girl choosing the bad boy in the end because he changed for her/she can change him, it was really nice to see allusions to that in this book. I would like to add that there doesn't seem to be much of a love triangle at the end of this book.

I really like the way the world was handled. Instead of being as localized as most English steampunk series are, this one explores the world outside England a little. We have the aforementioned American character as well as a decent amount of Asian influenced clothing. There were even mentions of specific martial arts (Kung Fu (which originates in China) and Jujitsu (which originated with the samurai of feudal Japan) if I remember rightly). Considering how most English steampunk - Victorian era or otherwise - tends to forget that the rest of the world even exists, this was very nice indeed.

Now, as much as I liked this book and as much as I can over look these things, there were some minor issues I had. First, Finley. I love the name. I personally have created no less than three characters bearing that name in stories I've started writing. Eventually I will find the perfect fit - even though I think I already have... Anyway, cool name. Awesome name. However, the chances of anyone actually naming their daughter this in c. 1870 is so tiny as to be, basically, nonexistent. It was moderately popular thirty years later as a boys name, but alongside names that can pass as old fashioned - even if they may not be - it seems very anachronistic. While I know that's what steampunk is all about, this was just very odd.

Second issue: The front cover. Beautiful, isn't it? Problem is, that isn't Finley on the cover. So, who is it, you ask. No clue. It could have been Finley... With several changes. For example: The only fancy dress Finley ever wears is blue and green. Or something along those lines. (Honestly, the only thing I remember about that dress was that they kept comparing it to a Peacock.) That gorgeous jewelry that Finley's wearing was never mentioned or even alluded to in the book. To the best of my knowledge, she never wears jewelry and the only thing mentioned that even vaguely resembles this is a pair of totally cool brass knuckles. Finally, and perhaps most telling, that's not the color of Finley's hair. She is blonde. I do believe it was described as honey blonde. Maybe not. I always pictured her as strawberry blonde myself - though I would say we had quite enough red heads in this book. But there was a minor plotpoint in the book that was based on her not having dark hair.

Read as part of the following challenges: Goodreads & Book Bingo