Author: Betsy Cornwell
Published: August 25, 2015
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 pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.
I don’t think I even realized this was a Cinderella re-telling when I requested it. I saw steampunk, inventor, magic, and went for it. Then I started in, and thought uh oh, this is going to be Cinder again. But it wasn’t.
What we have here is a feminist fey steampunk version of Cinderella that is both a little too faithful to the original, for my taste, yet offers a character with far more agency than any version of Cinderella I’ve seen before. I’m pleased to add this title to the reviews on the book blog.
Characterization and badassery
The stepmother and stepsisters are as you’d expect for Cinderella. We get a bit more of the father and the mother than we usually do, which is nice. Nicolette has more backstory than most Cinderellas.
Though I was worried at first that I was re-reading Cinder, I quickly found that this book is more of a gently steampunk version of “Ever After” with Drew Barrymore.
Maybe it is the “gentle” part that keeps me from really being bonkers about this book. On the face of it, I love the steampunk elements and the feminist twist. But I would have liked it to be a little less faithful to the original in the buildup. A little more out-of-the-box. I found myself anticipating for the pivotal scenes from the original, the things I knew to expect from a Cinderella story. This got in the way, sometimes, of simply reading the story.
There are some characters that did not appear in the original, and I quite liked them, as they offered freshness to this old saw.
Plot, pacing, and prose
I do like that the plot is more than just going to the ball and catching the Prince’s eye. Really, that’s not Nicolette’s goal at all. Her plan is to rescue herself, and that’s a very good adaptation.
The pace drags a bit here and there. The prose is so good, though, that I couldn’t hope to say what should be adjusted to make it flow faster. Overall, I was satisfied with the pace, only because the descriptive prose made it flow so well.
Not funny. Not trying to be.
“I had hardly bothered to look in a mirror since Mother’s funeral. It was strange to watch my face in one now. The roundness of my childhoot features had vanished, and I looked almost like a grown woman. She was a stranger, not myself– but as I watched her and she regarded me with equal doubt, she began to seem familiar.”
I’d recommend this to people not looking for a Cinderella who wants to a man to rescue her. I think if you’ve recently read Cinder, this might be too much Cinderella, too soon. I quite liked Cinder, but if I had to pick one of the two, overall, I’d choose Mechanica.