Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
July 14, 2015
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A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.
I don't want Rebel Mechanics to be over. True, it is the first in a series so it's not over over . . . I like alternate history books, steampunk and historical fiction so this was a great blend and I loved it.
I loved our introduction to Verity's character. It was not only something exciting and out of the ordinary, but immediately gives readers a good sense of who she is. Sure, there are masked bandits on the train which could be dangerous, but she focuses more on the excitement of it all.
She is a well educated young woman, in a time where girls did not always get that sort of education, and plans to put it to use as a governess. After landing herself a job, it's not the children or their education that are Verity's most pressing concern. Employed by one of the wealthiest and most influential magister (those who can do magic) families, Verity is in a prime position to help the rebels.
Except that the job will put her (and her primary job, as governess) in danger. But friends, which she's rarely, if ever, had and a boy she may be falling for are hard to pass up.
Verity's involvement with the rebels starts amazingly but also believable. As she - and we readers - see more of what they oppose and why, she becomes more sure that aiding them is the correct thing to do.
Only the magisters she works for don't seem nearly as evil or uncaring as she's supposed to believe they are. I adored the family she works for, Henry and Olive, especially. They were nicely done characters and I really cannot wait to see what happens with Olive as the series progresses and we (hopefully) get to see her get a bit older.
Some of the other characters were not as well developed as I might have liked. It does make sense when balancing the characters and relationships with the action and world building, but I wanted to know more about them. I get that Verity likes them, likes who they are to her, but I wanted to see more of who they were to really see why.
Some of how the story all came together and was resolved were more obvious and easy to guess than others, but I think they worked. Even if you know some of what's to come, you don't know it all -- and it's an incredibly readable book. You'll be turning the pages as fast as you can to see what happens, who does - and is - what and where it all ends.
Then, if you're like me, you'll be eagerly awaiting Book Two's release.
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