Title: Mechanica (2015)
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk Fantasy
Extent: 304 pages
Review: Mechanica is a retelling of Cinderella set in a steampunk fantasy world, where the Fae is hated and magic is outlawed. Our Cinderella reincarnate in this story is called Nicolette, a young woman who is left a slave to her stepmother and stepsisters after the death of her parents.
The story begins on her sixteenth birthday, when she receives a key to her mother’s workshop and soon begins inventing things on her own. You see, her mother was an inventor—a pretty good one at that—and Nic has inherited her talents. Sounds great in theory, huh? And it’s feminist, too: Nic is determined to stand on her own two feet, not to be swept by some prince at a ball.
Yet to quote another Cinderella, reading this book is like waiting for rain in a drought. Cornwell took a lot of time to weave the setting, telling us about the political dispute between the Fae and the kingdom, the inventing businesses that were around, the details that go into Nic’s creations. You would assume after all this information, they would be significant somehow… but nope. The story ended quite abruptly, surprisingly and rather disappointingly. I waited, waited and waited, and then nothing happened. It was dissatisfying, to say the least.
Despite the lack of a strong plot, however, there are many, many good things about this book. I liked Nic a lot at the beginning; she was emotionally tough but soft at the edges, determined to make things work, and most importantly, incredibly independent, at least up to a point (it was only when a certain male started becoming involved that I started caring less for her).
Not only that, the prose is gorgeous, too. Cornwell is a good writer, that much I can say, and she does well with creating suspense and keeping me flipping through the pages; she only didn’t succeed when it comes to delivering the… well, climax. The fantasy world that she has built is really vivid, atmospheric and unique, and I can’t stress how much I absolutely love the ‘magic’ system and how original it feels.
This Cinderella’s story has its own twist, which I won’t spoil. As far as I’m aware, readers are somewhat divided on this, with some feeling that the twist completely invalidates all that makes Cinderella, well, Cinderella. But of course, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you like the twist. Personally, it’s one I didn’t really mind or care for, only because I feel like at that point it was unnatural and forced, as if it was only there so this book could capitalise on Being Different.