Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.
But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.
Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.
Mechanica, by Betsy Cornwell, is a young adult, steampunk driven story that features 16-year old Nicolette Lampton as the main protagonist. Nick grew up with a mother that was an amazing inventor, and a father who sold her designs every where he traveled. She used clockwork mechanics and quite possibly a bit of FEY magic to build useful household items, including a miniature horse named Jules, that are still being used as the story moves forward. Now comes the part where Cornwell matches the original Cinderella story.
After losing her mother to a strange FEY illness, Nick's father William remarries to a woman who has two daughters of her own in order to keep his status. Not long after that, William succumbs to an unknown (since we are never told why he was dead) circumstance. That leaves Nicolette at the mercy of her STEP-MONSTER, and STEP-ANNOYANCES who turn Nick into their very own servant. STEP-MONSTER and daughters force Nick to work day and night doing menial chores. When they discover Nick's workshop, they start calling her Mechanica which they believe is derogatory. But, here's where the story differs from the original.
While Nicolette is doing all sorts of chores, she also discovers her mothers workshop on her 16th Birthday. This leads Nick on her own path in creating her own inventions, and meeting two actual friends in Cora and Fin who help her create a masterpiece to show all the kingdom. They allow her to actually feel something for the first time in a very long time, instead of being thought of as useless. Are you asking where the glass slipper comes in? Well, no worries, because Nicolette designs her very OWN glass clockwork inner shoe in order to attend the Prince's ball. Like Cinderella, she finds her way to the ball, dances with the charming prince, and leaves at Midnight along with her clockwork horse Jules, and without one of her shoes. Yes, yes, all very interesting, but why should I read this book you ask?
First, I have no real complaints about this book minus the internal monologue that goes on and on. Second, I don't mind that there isn't a true romance, but rather friendship with two people, Cora, and Fin who is the PRINCE of the story. I don't mind that she spends most of her time in her own little world picking up on what her own mother taught her. I was impressed that Cornwell wrote a character who is intelligent, innocent, sweet, and driven to follow in her mother's footsteps. I loved her connection with Jules, and the rest of the Menagerie of clockwork insects that her mother created. I loved that even when things are at their darkest, there is actual hope, and a path towards happiness.
I didn't even mind the ending all that much knowing that this book may or may not be a standalone. It's obvious that there is more to tell, but that is up to the author and publisher to decide to continue or not. I will say that Mechanica rings similar to Cinder than any other book I've read, but there are differences. I would also say that this is Cornwell's version of a Feminist Cinderella who is smart, intuitive, and doesn't need anyone except her friends, her machines, and her clockwork mechanicals to get by. I have read other reviews who have torn this story apart. Apparently, this story is not for everyone, but it was for me.
**I received this book for free from (Publisher) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**