the girl in the steel corset

Saturday, June 4, 2011 |

There’s something beguiling about steampunk. It’s the Victorian era, with added spunk and style. And, of course, it seems to be very ‘in’ right now. This is good news – we’re bound to get more of it (quantity), and well-written stories, too (quality). I was excited to see another young adult steampunk story getting a lot of publicity – because a merger of two of my favorite genres can't be a bad thing. And now that I’ve read The Girl in the Steel Corset, I know for sure that it was a wonderful idea.

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.

Oh, this book was so FUN! It packed a punch from the start, and didn’t let up to the very end. I have to say that that is one of the great things about YA lit – that it can be so active and outrageous, and somehow work. The first scenes literally pulled me in and made me forget that I was worried that this blend of genres wouldn’t go over well. Hook? Perfect.

Another good element? The cast of characters. Finley Jayne is our heroine and focal point, and she’s a strong girl being pulled in multiple directions. I love that she does more than wait for the action to come to her. She is almost always a maelstrom of movement and intent and she learns and changes as the story progresses. I must say, it’s nice to read about a girl who can pull her own weight, both literally and figuratively (and I say that as an Amazon-sized person, myself).

The rest of the band each had quirks and talents that made them a mini-action force, and all were appealing in their own way. That said, my favorite character was Jack Dandy. Hold on to your hats, kids. I’m not saying I like love triangles (because I rather loathe them, and more on that later) – I’m just saying that the bits in this book that made me laugh out loud in happy surprise were usually Dandy’s part of the dialogue. I look forward to more of his rakish ways.

So I liked the action, the fast-moving plot, and the characters. At this point I might as well call it a day and get out the cherries and whipped cream, right? Wrong. I may have enjoyed the book, but I’m not blind to its faults, either (see? books are like relationships. or something.). Look away if you’re sensitive to criticism, because this next paragraph is about to get heavy.

Things I didn’t like: 1) Possible presence of love triangle(s). I’m over it. 2) Some nagging historical inaccuracies and/or unbelievable bits. Let me just be straight here: telephones didn’t work that way, the language was very modern, and the bits about the Queen of England? GAH. 3) Finley blushed about every other moment in the second half of the book. I mean, I get that she was embarrassed. There had to be another, less romance novel-y way of expressing it. 4) Absentee parents. Yes, it happens in steampunk-land too.

Having said all of that, I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through steampunk London. I felt as though I’d gotten inside an adventure, and the experience was entertaining. The good bits outweighed the stuff that would usually drive me batty. And though it definitely felt like a young adult novel and lacked some of the emotional gravity and wit I’d like to find in my reading, I had a rollicking good time with it, and can’t wait for the next volume.

Recommended for: fans of steampunk, fans of young adult lit, fans of fantasy and sci-fi, and anyone who isn’t picky about their clichés and won’t mind a good dose of fun with their reading. Innocent and amusing, to a T.

I read an e-galley version of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Harlequin, and am reviewing it in conjunction with steampink, an event to celebrate the feminine side of steampunk! You can enter to win a copy of the book here.


vvb32 reads said...

ok, i'll take it as a romp as i read. but then i'm pretty easy to please when it comes to the lightweight steampunk stories.

Anonymous said...

Great review! I want to read this book more than ever now.

Cecelia said...

vvb32 - It's not necessarily lightweight (I was actually impressed by some of the technology and sci-fi stuff), but it has that YA feel to it, you know? Not at the level of Meljean Brook, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

This is one I've been wanting to read since I first saw it. I sounds fun.

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