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.
My review(minor spoiler-ish details included):
If you are looking to jump into the steampunk world, or even if you just want to dip your toes in the YA market, then this is the perfect place to start. The Girl in the Steel Corset has a bit of everything: romance, invention, mystery, intrigue, friendship, and suspense. The worldbuilding is beyond compare and I absolutely loved all the gadgets and inventions. And everything was woven together so that nothing felt forced, false, or phony.
Inside was a flat machine smaller than a deck of playing cards. It was a personal telegraph machine- all the rage now for fast communication. His machine and the ones belonging to his friends were a little "faster" than those available to the general public as not only were they designed based on Mr. Tesla's "wireless" design, they'd been augmented to transmit through the Aether by the amazingly brilliant Emily, whom Griffin had hired over her less-capable brothers a year ago.
The sky's the limit in this wonderful steampunk world! You have Zepplins and velocycles, Organites and Aether, brass goggles, corsets and ball gowns, robotics, artificial organs, and a criminal mastermind. Emily's cat is genius. I'm completely and utterly hooked!
But it's really the characters that make this story work on such an exceptional level. Each one feels very real and you want to know more about the choices they might make, and witness how the relationships all pan out. I can forgive the few predictable plot elements because I adored this misfit cast. In a series situation the reader must be able to connect with the characters on a variety of levels, otherwise it would be a waste of time to continue reading subsequent books. Jack Dandy is a fantastic character that will crack you up with his Cockney accent and slang, and keep you guessing until the very end...and then some. He has some of the best lines in the book.
"Don't cry, Treasure. You'll get me all wet and then I'll melt. I'm made of sugar, don't you know."~ Jack Dandy
I just loved him to pieces and refuse to believe that he is a bad guy. I'd read more Steampunk Chronicles for him alone! The love triangle involving Finley, Griff and Jack is top notch and I choosing one guy is practically impossible. My only real criticism is that at times the characters didn't seem the age they were written. This might actually be a just-me type issue because I honestly don't read many YA titles so I am unused to how younger characters relate on the page. After all, it has been quite a few years since I was that age. Griff and Jasper felt older to me. Maybe Griff's talent for channeling the Aether made him seem wise beyond his years? Maybe because he has this nurturing side, taking care of his ragtag group of misfits, giving him a more mature air? And Jasper just gave off an older vibe to me, especially when he was hauled away.
The Girl in the Steel Corset brings to mind The Great Mouse Detective (yes, I'm talking about the Disney movie) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That might seem like an odd combination but I can't think of a better description that encompasses the full scope of this book. Put this at the top of your summer reading list...you won't be sorry.
Kady Cross website here.
*Reviewed by Anna Dougherty
* I grabbed this book from NetGalley for review purposes