Form: e-book, pdf
Genre: steampunk, adventure novella
Target audience: YA
This novella is set in alternate-world London, late April 1897 and it features Finley Jayne, the heroine of other Kady Cross’s book, The Girl in the Steel Corset. I suppose it is a prequel. I might be wrong.
Finley, a young maid, has just lost her job again – this time she dared to punch a governess who had mistreated a child in her presence. The punch was powerful enough to knock out some of the governess’s teeth. Being from a rather poor, working-class family Finley needs a new job badly. Surprisingly, right the very next day an offer presents itself in the person of a fashionable Lady Morton who seeks a lady companion for her youngest daughter, Phoebe. Lady Morton is aware of Finley’s problems and that fact doesn’t discourage her. Quite the opposite.
Phoebe Morton is betrothed to rich and much older Lord Vincent so why would she need a companion at all? Especially a companion who is not only known to defend children in the most unladylike manner but also doesn’t come from a good family? Of course Finley doesn’t refuse such an advantageous, well-paid offer. Soon enough her situation at the Mortons becomes even stranger. She is treated by both Lady Morton and Phoebe practically like a member of their family, not a servant – she is given her own, spacious room, they buy her some fashionable clothes. She goes with them to cafes and parties. Then she is asked to tell all and sundry that her name is Finley Bennet and she is Phoebe’s distant cousin from the country. What’s really going on?
What I liked:
· Finley was a likeable character indeed – a girl you would like to befriend, honest, honourable and intelligent. Freakishly strong but still…rather nice.
· The narration flowed smoothly and was well-paced – in short it was an entertaining and short read, perfect for a summer afternoon.
· Chocolate features a lot in here and, as I adore eating it, reading about it and smelling it (preferably all these combined. ;-)) I was fully satisfied.
What I didn’t like:
· The author didn’t manage to persuade me that she really likes and knows steampunk. Mentioning automatons, mechanical horses, mad inventors and brains in viscous liquid is not enough to make your novel/novella steampunk. Not really.
· To tell you the truth the plot was predictable and not very original. From the very beginning we know Lord Vincent is up to no good (we are right) and poor Phoebe needs help (we are right again). We also get too many clues about the possible nature of the danger – the mystery was really too easy to solve.
· The world building I found a bit lacking (and nineteenth century London is such a nice place to write about!) but, after all, it was just a short novella.
I enjoyed this one well enough to wish for The Girl in the Steel Corset, featuring the same heroine. Finley’s all secrets weren’t revealed here and she has just found another job – sounds interesting. I only hope a fully-fledged novel will be better when it comes to world-building.