Book Review: MECHANICA by Betsy Cornwell

Title: Mechanica
Series: Standalone
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Sale Date: August 25th 2015
Age: 12 And Up
Genre: Steampunk, Fairy Tales & Folklore
Pages: 320
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: ARC from Publishers
My Rating: 4 Stars.
Buy: Amazon 
Add to: Goodreads

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.

What a completely refreshing take on Cinderella! Readers will find some of their favorite elements in this story as well as some unique twists to keep things interesting. There's the mean stepsisters, a dashing prince, and a ball, yet the author Betsy Cornwell has given us a heroine not afraid to make her own magic nor choose her own path.

MECHANICA is set in a kingdom that once lived side-by-side with the Fey whose magic infused their daily lives until an attack by Fey assassins killed their Queen. Now, the Fey are banished and magic is forbidden. Yet, it lingers in the oddest places and this is where our heroine, young Nicolette (Nick), enters the story and gives the reader a look at author Betsy Cornwell's world where Steampunk and Fey's magic collide in a wonderful retelling of the favorite fairy tale Cinderella.

Just like the original Cinderella tale, the story follows a young girl who has lost her mother at an early age as well as her father soon after he remarries. Left with two mean and ungrateful stepsisters and a ruthless stepmother, Nick's days seem at first an endless round of chores. Until that moment, she discovers her mother's hidden workshop.

What makes MECHANICA unique is in the way magic from the Fey and Steampunk gadgets find their way into the story. This is probably one of my favorite aspects to the story as well. On her 16th birthday, Nick discovers her mother's workshop, a world where tiny clockwork creatures and animals come to life through Fey magic, a mysterious substance called "dust" and of course a bit of mechanical maneuverings. I felt like I was there with Nick while she tinkered. Through this discovery, Nick has possibly found a way out servitude. She wants to be independent and the upcoming technological exposition may be just her ticket. 

Nick, surprised me in many ways. The way she holds friendship at such high value, her independent nature and though she cares for the prince, he is in no way a means of escape from her situation. Everything that happens, the exposition, the ball, and confrontation with her stepfamily occur through her doing. I really enjoyed the fact that the story focused on her growth rather than a romance. I do have to mention that much of the story, told through Nick, feels rather internal. The pace may seem slow for some, but I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of it. Also, there is a moment when the stepsisters do something very cruel and heartless and in turn there is a slap given to one of the stepsisters. Sometimes manners must be set aside in my opinion rather than be a doormat for others to wipe their feet on. It was surprising but given the circumstances not unrealistic. There's a spark in Nick, and I found her very enjoyable to read about.

Recommended for readers looking for a unique spin on the Cinderella classic. Fans of magic, Fey and Steampunk may want to grab this one up. Strong girl power and friendship play a great part making MECHANICA an inspiring read.