If you’re a teenager, you can probably skip these first two paragraphs because it’s very likely you already know what steampunk is all about. Everybody else listen up: You may have read steampunk novels without even realizing it, as was the case with me. Steampunk is closely related to alternative histories and is a sub-genre of science fiction and/or fantasy. I’ve always loved these novels without knowing they belonged to a special sub-genre.
If you’re not familiar with Steampunk, it involves the Victorian era when steam power came into prominence and often takes place in England or the British Isles. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are classic examples of what is now called steampunk, and who doesn’t love Captain Nemo? The path not taken also features in a lot of steampunk, such as the widespread use of dirigibles and/or inventions directly derived from DaVinci’s experiments. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the origins of steampunk. To read it, click here.
I recently got the opportunity to read The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, Book #1 in The Steampunk Chronicles. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t sure about reading this book at first because the publisher is Harlequin and I’m not into “mushy” romance novels, which is what I’ve always associated with Harlequin. Now don’t flame me if you’re into Harlequin romances – there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just not my thing. I love steampunk so much though that I decided to give it a try, thinking I could always stop reading if it wasn’t what I was looking for. LOL This book was so entertaining that I couldn’t put it down – nuf said.
The year is 1897, we’re in London and 16 year old Finley Jayne has been working for a fortnight as a ladies’ maid in the August-Raynes household. Because she’s had a sketchy employment history, three dismissals in three months, she really needs this job. She feels completely alone in the world and she knows how vulnerable that makes her. Twenty-one year old Lord Felix August-Raynes, the master’s son, has a reputation for beating and/or molesting the household help. Finley was warned by the other maids so she trys to stay away from him and ensures they’re never alone.
“He belonged to a gang of privileged ruffians known for their facial piercings and lack of respect for anyone else, especially females. She had been hired to replace the previous girl hurt by the young lord. Rumor had it that the maid had required serious medical attention.”
Unfortunately for him, she encounters him late one night on the back stairs when he’s really drunk and in a playful mood. She hopes he’ll leave her alone because she doesn’t want any trouble but no such luck. You see, Finley’s not an ordinary maid. There’s something inside of her that protects her whenever danger threatens her, and it’s thrilled to come out to play. It has skills no one would believe a maid in Victorian England could have and it’s more than happy to demonstrate them to Lord Felix. Let’s just say Felix is not a good man, and she teaches him one hell of a lesson. He probably wouldn’t be half so hurt if he’d just stayed down after she broke his nose.
“She felt his neck for a pulse, relief engulfing her as she found it. She hadn’t killed him. At least she wouldn’t hang. But she had still attacked a peer of the realm and there would be consequences…They’d bring the law down on her for this. They’d lock her up. Or worse, use her for scientific experiments in New Bethlehem Asylum – Bedlam. And they would experiment on her once they realized she was abnormal.”
While running to put as much distance as she can between her and the August-Raynes household while trying to figure out how she will survive, Finley runs out in front of 18 year old Griffin King’s velocycle as he’s racing through Hyde Park with his friend Sam Morgan. Griffin has only a split second of warning through the aether before she’s in front of him, so it’s too late for him to keep from hitting her. And that is how a very injured Finley ends up at Griffin’s home, Greythorne Manor, where she discovers that he is a duke.
After recovering from her injuries unbelievably quickly, she meets Sam, who has great physical strength, and Emily, who can talk to machinery and can hear automatons’ thoughts. Finley also meets Jasper, an American cowboy, in a way he’s unlikely to forget soon. All three are Griffin’s friends, all have special powers thanks to organites, and all are working to save the empire by thwarting the Machinist. Will Finley get arrested? Will she fit in with this group? Does she even want to? What’s the steel corset? Is she working for the other side? Who’s the Machinist? Sorry but I really can’t tell you any more without giving away huge spoilers.
I don’t normally quote from the author’s acknowledgements but I thought this was very telling about how the author envisioned The Girl in the Steel Corset. “When I told Krista [her editor] I wanted to write League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets teen X-Men she replied, ‘Steampunk. Cool.’”
The Girl in the Steel Corset is a fun ride to say the least, with lots of twists and turns, and surprises along the way. I’m really looking forward to Book #2 because this is a series I want to keep reading. Hurry up Kady Cross and get writing on that book!
If you want to purchase The Girl in the Steel Corset, click on any title link or the bookcover above.
We also did a review here not very long ago of the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, another excellent steampunk series.
We’d love to hear your comments on steampunk, good steampunk novels you’ve read, or the review above. If you’re really into steampunk, maybe you could give us more info about it! And if you’ve already read The Girl in the Steel Corset, please comment!
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