Delivers a good mystery at the expense of world building and character development.
This book has everything going for it. Look at that gorgeous cover. Check out the gushing reviews online. It’s teen steampunk—two of the subgenres du jour in popular fiction. I squealed in delight when the folks at Mills and Boon were kind enough to send me a review copy.
In hindsight, I should’ve known better than to raise my expectations to a level that few books could possibly attain. The Girl In The Steel Corset might have worked for me ten years ago, but now I’m just left wanting more.
Sixteen-year old Finley Jane knows something lurks inside her—something strong and dark and unpredictable. She tries to hide it, but she can’t always control it. After Finley escapes an assault, she’s taken in by Griffin and his friends. She doesn’t want to cause them any trouble…and yet they, too, seem to have their secrets. And their abilities.
Griffin is searching for the mastermind behind recent troubles with automatons going rogue. He’s fascinated by Finley and seems to be the only person who can help her overcome her darker side. But as their search for The Machinist comes to a head, Finley isn’t always sure whom to trust, especially when everyone is pushed to the limit of their powers—including her.
In truth, that summary seems a tad more exciting than the book felt while I was reading it. The mysteries surrounding the different characters’ abilities were intriguing and kept me invested in the story, despite the many info dumps along the way.
“I have no desire to be any more in your debt than I already am.”
[Griffin] looked thoughtful for a moment. “Would it make you more comfortable if I demanded something in return? Would that put you at ease?”
When he put it like that, it made her sound like an awful sort of person for thinking the worst. “It would, yes. At least that would be honest.”
“What I want from you,” he said, and Finley braced herself, “is your trust. Irrevocable and unshakable. I want you to put your life in my hands, and I want to be able to do the same without hesitation.”
Disturbed to her very soul, Finley could only shake her head. “You ask too much.” Put his life in her hands? He was deranged! A bedlamite for certain.
A crooked grin curved his mouth. “Too much? You strange and wonderful girl, that is the least I’ll ask of you.”
And yet I felt that author Kady Cross focused too much on the mystery plot surrounding who The Machinist was and what he planned to do, at the expense of deep and solid world building.
Abilities and talents are revealed piecemeal, which is fine if somehow they’re brought together at the end to serve the bigger picture. It didn’t really work for me; parts of the plot still seemed very vague at the end. I’m not sure if this is deliberate, because this is obviously the first book in a series, but it left me unsatisfied.
My other gripe is that many of the characters feel derivative. The underworld figure of Jack Dandy seems like a barely disguised sketch of The Pirates of The Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow. Sam, the enigmatic part-automaton, closely resembles Wolverine from X-Men (film). Maybe this is the way the author planned it, but if so, the characters pale against their much more well-rendered film counterparts, and the comparison only highlights the book’s weaknesses.
Having an ensemble cast doesn’t help, as Cross struggles to flesh out all the characters. I would rather the story had focused on a few key characters and left others a mystery until subsequent books, but Cross tries to do justice to each one. The effect, unfortunately, is to dilute everyone.
Oh, and there seems to be a love triangle in the horizon. Of sorts.
Yay or nay?
This book was an entertaining if not altogether satisfying read. Perhaps the next book will provide the depth I was looking for in the world building and the characters. In the meantime, this one should appeal to readers who are after a bit of adventure and mystery without taking it all too seriously.
If you’re on the fence about trying this book, you can download a free copy of the prequel, The Strange Case of Finley Jane, from All Romance.
An advanced reading copy of this book was generously provided by Mills and Boon Australia.
Title: The Girl In The Steel Corset (excerpt)
Series: The Steampunk Chronicles (Book 1)
Author: Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin Teen/Mills and Boon
Hardcover: 9780373210336 (24/5/2011, USA)
B format: 9781921793127 (6/2011)
Ebook: 9781742901305 (6/2011)