Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
Series: Mechanica #1
Genre: Steampunk/Retelling
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Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. 

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

I wanted to believe that there were friends who loved each other enough to live together, to be families together. That the love between friends could create life too; just as romantic love could in Esting. I wanted to believe in such a family.

This is a wonderful book. Sure, it's a little slow, but most retellings of fairy tales seem to be.

Nicolette is a lot of fun to read about. She's got her head in inventions and gears and springs - even if it's unusual for a woman to do that. Even though her mother was an inventor, too. And that's part of what I love about this story, the mother is the important parent for Nicolette.

Sure, her father remarries and that's how she gets a new 'family' - but she acknowledges that she was always more her mother's daughter than her father's. I love this because, in the original tale, Cinderella's mother is, usually, nonexistent.

The supporting cast is all interesting enough, though I do wish more had been done with the 'Steps'. I've read/seen too many retellings to hate the step-mother and step-sisters quite the way I'm supposed to. So I definitely can't help but wish they'd came round a little better - a little more sympathetic.

I also like how this story is so women driven. I mean, sure, you assume that a retelling of Cinderella would be populated by a lot of women, but they are so much more important than the men in this story. That makes me very happy.

The writing style is serviceable without being pushy - which is my favorite kind. There's a lot of non-dialogue, which is the kind of stuff that would usually make me impatient, but I actually enjoyed all the descriptions this time around.

That's probably because they were mostly descriptions of mechanical things, that steampunk stuff that I love, an I adore reading about it. And, let me tell you, there were a lot of gadgets and things - just things - that were so much fun to read about.

Now, the big things that made me love this book. First of all, don't pick it up thinking you'll be getting a romance story. Yeah, Nick goes through most of the major 'Cinderella' moments, but she's more interested in the invention expo than she is the ball. Don't read this book if your wanting romance to take center stage, because it never does.

However, do read this book if you want a solid, strong friendship and three people that love and care about each other a lot. Because, for me, the friendship was totally the best thing about the whole book. And that's coming from someone that bought it for the wonderful steampunk!

I had rescued myself entirely.