Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset

corsetcoverAuthor: Kady Cross {site}
Genre: Steampunk, Historical, YA
Format: Kindle
Published: 5/24/11 (Kindle 6/1/2011)
Disclosure: Acquired via NetGalley

Synopsis: {via amazon}
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.

I've said so before, but I was dying to have this book. When it was approved on NetGalley, I was so remarkably happy. I think the cover's the most beautiful I've seen, and that's saying a lot because book covers are getting so much better than they have ever been. I started it the day I finished Mockingjay, that was my biggest mistake I think. If I'd started this book to follow any other book, I'd probably have felt better about it overall, but following something as amazing as the Hunger Games series and this book just came across as so-so. That's not to say that I didn't like it, and the more I read the more it grew on me, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

The Setting:

So lets start with the things I did like, because I hate to start on a negative note. The steampunk elements of this book were very good. Kady Cross clearly has a great grasp on what steampunk should be, and what it should not. Her "technology" was believable and fantastic all at once. I loved the veolcycles, the aether engine,  the handheld telegraph machines. I particularly loved Emily's cat. The steampunk elements blended perfectly with the setting and were effortless. Rather than being distracting, they were a perfect fit. These things made this book a perfect steampunk setting. Very well done.

Also, the supernatural elements of this story were quite good. The Aether  and Organites were somewhat like magic, which made a good match and juxtaposition with the steampunk technological elements. Cross does a good job blending the two into a setting that works so well it's almost too good to be true. Very fulfilling setting.

The Characters:

I liked Finley, particularly because of her strength. The whole good girl/bad girl thing was well done, and Finley was well portrayed and believable. I adored Griffin King, the Duke of Greythorne. He has to go on my ever growing list of adored male leads (may just have to make a list, now that I think about it!) for his charming wit and good nature, and he's not too bad to "look at" either. Emily and Sam were both very believable, very lovable characters. Jasper was okay, but I was bothered by the somewhat cliché aspect of Jasper being an American cowboy in London. That said, Jasper was a good, solid character who did his best to defy his place as a cliché.

Finally, Jack Dandy, so bad he's good. I can see why Finley's attracted to him and his nick name for her ("Treasure") is perfect! I loved everything about him, including his Cockney accent, which in his case is less a cliché, than Jasper being a cowboy. Between Griffin and Jack, I can see Finley's issue. They're each a representation of one side of her.  I love them both, but wonder what will happen when she evolves as a character and grows into herself... will she still like either of them?  I think so, but we'll see.

The Classics:

I love, love the classical story references in this book. It alludes to Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, and Jane Eyre directly.  There is also reference to the Gothic, which was quite popular (even amongst women) during the time this book was set. It makes a rather short references to the "horrid novels," but one that made an impression on me. For those who may not know, the horrid novels are stories recommended for Gothic readers by the Goth-crazed Isabella Thorpe, the protagonist of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. This really made this book for me, particularly because I love the Classic Gothic tales.

The Plot:

This is where things start to get a little bit fuzzy for me. Overall, I liked the plot okay, but I felt like it was a little bit too obvious. There was never a moment when this book surprised me, in any way. As a matter of fact, there were moments when the characters were missing things they shouldn't have been and I was yelling at them to see what was so clear to me. It wasn't as though these are things I could see, but the characters wouldn't, they should have been able to deduce what was happening from the clues, but they weren't. It was quite maddening, to be honest with you.

Also, there were many places when the plots forward momentum relied on too concidental incidents. I won't say what they are because that would constitute spoilers, but there're several places where things happen that are too coincidental. The plot couldn't have proceeded without them, or at least not in any way I could have seen, but it looked very much like the author was in the same boat. Like she had written herself into a corner she couldn't escape without making things too easy for Finley, Griffin, and crew.

The Verdict:

All in all, I liked this book okay. Not nearly as much as I thought I would, but enough that I would recommend it to steampunk and YA fans. Also, as the first book of a series, I liked it enough to read the second book and the short novella, too--I find I'm actually looking forward to the next book! It wasn't the kind of book that stick with you, or makes you feel deeply, but it was fun reading and I enjoyed my time reading it. It was good steampunk and anyone who appreciates the genre would appreciate it.


I liked the book trailer almost as much as I liked the cover. Harlequin should really be proud of themselves for this trailer, it's beautiful and fits the novel well. Bravo!

Rating: 3.5/5 (I liked it!)

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