Obviously a steampunk novel, as it’s book #1 in The Steampunk Chronicles, there’s a great mix of adventure, romance, and gadgetry in this quick (despite its 450+ pages) read. I love the trim size of this novel, its gorgeous cover with the steel corset peeking out from the scarlet dress, and the black gears that decorate each new chapter page. Overall, a gorgeous package for a book that delivers from a first-time foray into the YA genre by best-selling author Kathryn Smith.
Finley Jayne has had to run. Again. Something about her draws men to her, and at age 16 and a servant in people’s homes, she’s easy prey for the fathers and sons of rich families. Or so they think. There’s something inside Finley that awakes when she’s in danger, something dark enough to protect Finley by allowing her to fight well and become strong enough to throw a grown man across the room. Though she didn’t kill him, after this last fight with a member of the crew of Dandies, followers of the notorious Jack Dandy, Finley knows she must run again and despairs of where she’ll find herself this time, out on the streets, in the middle of the night, in 1897 England.
Luckily, she is run down by a Duke on a motorcycle-type machine. Griffin King, possessing powers of his own, recognizes something within Finley and so brings her to his manor to join his own band of misfits. There’s Emily – better at tinkering with mechanical things than any man; Sam – part-man, part-automaton; Griffin’s aunt, Cordelia – she can read people’s minds; and Jasper Renn – an American who can move like the wind. Suspected by some of being a spy, unwillingly drawn to both Griffin and Jack Dandy, all Finley really wants to learn is why she feels like there are literally two sides of her – the Finley of her conscious moments, and the Finley who can fight like the devil. Is she evil? How will she reconcile her two sides? And can she do so while also trying to help Griffin’s gang figure out just what evil plot The Machinist is hatching that involves Queen Victoria and life-like automatons like the one that almost killed Sam?
Though most of the plot twists and turns were not a super-shocking reveal, this is a perfect introduction for the 12-and-up set into the world of steampunk and all the clothing and machinery that goes along with it. I’m looking forward to following the gang to America in book 2!