Review – The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

Title: The Girl in the Steel Corset
SubTitle: The Steampunk Chronicles
Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Pub Date: 05/31/2011
Category: FICTION – JUVENILE: Action & Adventure

An excellent, well-crafted, well-crafted book set in a vibrantly described alternate Victorian world where automatons powered by a substance unfound in our reality are a normal part of life.  A light highly enjoyable read.

The Blurb

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.

The story was interesting and well constructed so there were never dull points. I picked who the bad guy was pretty much as soon as he appeared, but that didn’t detract from the novel at all. Apart from the quest to find the Machinist, we also uncover the startling truth of Finley’s parentage and her father’s relationship with the late Lord.

The characters were all likable well-rounded, believable people with clear motivations. I liked them all, the tiny wiz kid Emily, the hulking Sam, the neat Lord Griff, the confused and gutsy Finley, the very American cowboy and the particularly colourful character of Jack Dandy. Their personal development and relationships with each other were realistic and added richness to the simple story. The author described young Lord Griffin and his place in society beautifully, and the cameo by Queen Victoria at a most unexpected moment was a delight. The romance was very light, but an important element nevertheless, and it makes the book suitable for younger teens as well as older ones.

I found the world, including the clothing –Victorian with modern touches like girls in pants – fascinating and well thought out. Working with the concept of an alternative world gives plenty of creative license and I enjoyed the combination of Victorian mores with girls with modern sensibilities – no simpering useless females in these girls.

The ending was completely satisfying and left the reader with a tantalising question mark and a new adventure.

Anyone who likes YA Stream Punk should enjoy this excellent example of the genre. I give it 4.5 stars. The lost half star is because I would have liked to see more depth in the story. The character of Griffith was ripe for being a deep thinker, perhaps philosophical in his thoughts and I felt more richness could have come from a deeper engagement with the mystical elements.

I love the cover. Great colour, texture and design.