The Girl in the Steel Corset
by Kady Cross
On a dark night in Victorian England, 16-year-old Finley Jayne is assaulted by her former employer but manages to escape, thanks to a thing inside her that she barely understands. She meets up with Griffin King, a wealthy young duke who asks her to help him investigate a series of crimes committed by automatons.
This is the first part in a new series called The Steampunk Chronicles, and there is some measure of success in some of the devices used here. The Organites in particular are pretty cool (if borrowing somewhat from Star Trek), as they are tiny life-giving creatures that copy human composition so that scars are healed and bones are mended. Many of the other steampunk elements are also fun, including the decorative but useful steel corset designed for Finley by her friend Emily.
But after awhile, there’s almost too much technology on show, particularly when random devices make appearances for no apparent reason. There is an instant camera, rebuilding of hearts, and numerous other scientific discoveries that just aren’t very convincing. Further straining credibility is the notion that Emily, a teenaged girl, would be so proficient in medicine, surgery, and the use of aforementioned technology, despite any back story to indicate her training or education. There’s also a disturbing lack of adult presence in this book, and the few that make appearances seem merely there for show. On top of this, the plot itself is pretty thin, there’s very little character development, and the attempts to mimic the language of the time is awkward at best.
This book starts out with a bang as Finley flees the household where she’s been mistreated and then encounters the self-same lord in a dark alley. Unfortunately, it quickly loses momentum as it becomes apparent that this is essentially a romance novel with a gorgeous cover and some great action scenes. The steampunk genre certainly invites a certain suspension of disbelief, but Victorian England–and its manners and mores–should be more than just a set decoration for a story that is placed in that era. Readers who crave fun, well-written steampunk would do better to find Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel, which skillfully blends mystery, magic, and strong characters and plot in with the distinct language and customs of the day.
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Rated 2 out of 5 stars
30-second summary: Contains great action scenes, but a story sadly lacking in research and an overuse of improbable (and often unnecessary) technology. A review copy was provided by the publisher for this article.