July 21, 2012
Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset
Steampunk Chronicles #1
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk
Finley Jayne, a young commoner girl, displays a serious case of the Jekyll and Hydes when she is attacked by the rakish son of her employer. Frightened by the violent darkness within her, Finley makes a run for it and is hit by a velocycle in Hyde Park. The operator just so happens to be His Grace the Duke of Greythorn, who has a habit of taking in peculiar strays. Finley soon finds herself in the midst of the grand scheming of the villainous Machinist and discovers the truth about her father and his shrouded past.
While I enjoyed my read of this book, there were a few things working against it that cost the book some serious points.
The first 30% of this book suffers from sluggish pacing. It really shouldn't take that long for me to get into a book, especially one with as much potential as this loosely based Jekyll and Hyde steampunk adventure. The idea is certainly appealing, but takes forever to get going. Once it finally does, the plot twists are so predictable and simplistic that I had the villain and his master plan figured out by the half-way point. Hinting is essential to peaking your reader's interest and keeping them engaged in your story's outcome, but such obvious foreshadowing dumbs the story down. To be perfectly honest it is downright condescending to your reader.
Now, I understand that steampunk is all about the crazy gadgets and technology mixed in with the delightful drama of Victorian era novels, and I love that. However, the first 30% of The Girl In The Steel Corset is over wrought with gadgets, tragic backgrounds, and special abilities. This portion of the novel was really just an info dump wrapped up in shiny gears and cogs that leaves the rest of the novel feeling rushed and empty. Most of the gadgets, back stories and abilities could have been woven throughout the bulk of the novel to make it feel more complete and leave a little mystery to the characters, rather than dumping it all in the reader's lap at the very beginning.
Even though these aspects meddled with my enjoyment, once I finally got to the meat of the story, I couldn't help but be caught up. The best things about this novel are its vibrant side characters and the admirable camaraderie they develop for one another. Although the plot of this novel didn't work for me overall, I definitely found I cared for the characters and looked forward to seeing what happens to them in the next book, which I hear is more satisfying than this one.
My favorite character was without question Jack Dandy. This sleekly charming crimelord stole my heart from the moment he stepped onto the page! Now, I'm not a fan of love triangles, but Jack made this one amusing rather than frustrating with his dark charisma perfectly setting off Griffin's more earnest gallantry. I really hope to see more of him in the next book.
One final thing. I couldn't decide whether the whole "mandroid" thing worked for or against this book. Sam, is referred to as a "mandroid" rather than a cyborg in a completely serious manner. This term sounds hilarious to me and the fact that it is said with absolute seriousness makes it even funnier. Nearly every person I related this to had the same thing to say, "Sounds like some kind of sex robot."
The Final Verdict
The Girl in the Steel Corset is an attractive concept that gets messy in its execution, but still retains an endearing quality in its charming characters. The Steampunk Chronicles may very well be a series that suffers from the 'first book" syndrome. Giving the second book The Girl in the Clockwork Collar could be a good investment.
I purchased a copy of this book to read in preparation of my review for its sequel. I received no compensation for the views stated above. All opinions are my own.