Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review: Mechanica

Title: Mechanica
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Genre: Young Adult // Magic 
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Source: Publisher
Format: eARC

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 turned her into a servant in her own home.
But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.
Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all (goodreads).

Mechanica creatively mixes magic with technology and has some fairytale elements that get turned on its head.

Plot: Much like the beloved Cinderella tale, Nicolette acts as the family servant for her wicked step mother and sisters after and mother and father have passed, but it is a bit darker than your standard Disney fairytale. It's evident that Nicolette was being pushed to the side even when her father was around, ever present in the background in her home. On her 16th birthday, she finds her mother's workshop where she had masterfully mixed faerie magic with gears and made trinkets to sell. Nicolette takes up the task and creates new fantastical creatures that act as her companions and confidants. 

We've got princesses, magic, and a little bit of danger. This sounds like the making for a great fairytale retelling, but I thought that Mechanica was missing something big. A big plot point is that Nicolette makes her trinkets using faerie magic, her father makes hint at public unrest with the fae and there is fear that humanity will go to war with the fae, but guess what's missing: the fae. Mechanica skirts around a potential conflict with a lot of lose ends at the end of the novel. I have to believe that there is a second book in the works, but as a standalone, this was completely confusing. I felt like I missed something and would reread pages to make sure I hadn't skimmed over something big. 

Characters: Nicolette, much like Cinderella, has known a life of pain and solitude so it was a joy to see her find herself and watch her friendship with two palace servants blossom. She truly grows in the novel and does not remain a DID (Damsel in Distress for all of you who have not seen Hercules. Shame on you). 

I'm hesitant to talk about the romance aspect because it definitely was not what I was expecting in a fairytale retelling. I would say that I was a  bit disappointed, but the romance wasn't meant to become a focal point. 

World Building: Betsy Cornwell's world wasn't as fleshed out as I would have liked. There was one scene that really stood out to me: The Night Market. This scene reminded me much of Stardust by Neil Gaiman as this was a place where magic and other otherworldly creatures lurked. This is why I was so disappointed with the lack of fae in the novel. I felt teased with this one scene of magic and mystery, only to have it taken away and never spoken of again. 

Short N Sweet: Mechanica's strong point is its characterization of poor Nicolette; however with little plot development, it's hard to tell if this book was intended to be a standalone novel or introduction to a series. 


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