Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mechanica ~ Betsy Cornwell (earc) review [@betsy_cornwell @HMHCo]

Clarion Books
August 25, 2015
320 pages
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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.
Mechanica is a creative and imaginative fairy tell re-imagining. It is clearly the Cinderella tale being retold but it isn't a point-by-point retelling, either. I loved that some characters have different roles in Betsy Cornwell's novel, or events happened differently or with different outcomes or significance.

Nicolette and her life with her stepmother and stepsisters is familiar enough that if you love the Cinderela tale, you'll enjoy the similarities. Yet, it's also original enough - her mechanical talents and all that comes with/from that, where the story goes - to keep you guessing a bit and entertain readers not as fond of the fairy tale.

Nicolette - Mechanica to the Steps - is not a helpless girl, tormented by her new 'family' and dreaming of a prince come to save her. In Mechanica she is a girl who doesn't have it easy, she does have to work, work, work for her 'family' and is treated unfairly. It's her dreams of the future, her goals for herself where Mechanica differs from Cinderella, and what is so much fun about Mechanica. She isn't waiting to be saved, she's working on how to save herself.

I liked that there was friendship and romance in the story. Through the characters and her relationship with them, we learn quite a bit about Nicolette/Mechanica. The addition of the fae and the (as far as I know) original lore surrounding them as an excellent layer to Nicolette's world and the story.It is not a faery story, but the existence and knowledge of the fae does play a part in Mechanica's society and with Mechanica's inventions.

I did feel like the novel - the characters, their decisions, the world and its rules and customs - was leading to a slightly different ending than we got. Almost as if things were there for an ending that really would have challenged convention and (maybe) been a bit more shocking, but was toned down and made more acceptable, understandable. While I may be wrong about all of this, it did feel like a different ending was coming and I rather wish it had. I did not dislike the ending Mechanica has, it just felt like it was playing it safe.

(How's that for trying not to be spoilery!)

digital galley received, through NetGalley, from publisher for review


  1. Oh my goodness! How have I not heard of this book yet? It sounds all Cinder-like and wonderful but very different at the same time. This book is going straight to the top of my list. Fairytale retellings are my favorite, and this one sounds like it has so much promise! It's always interesting to see how different authors reimagine the events of stories that have been told for generations in order to flesh them out into full blown novels in new settings or environments that weren't even CONCEIVABLE when the fairytales themselves were originally dreamt up. So glad to see this review and hear that you give it a solid four stars. It's one thing to find a book like this...another to have it on good authority that it's worth my time :)

    1. Mechanica is like Cinder, but also completely not at all like Cinder. It was the Cinderella inspiration that drew me to the book but the elements that were either created by the author or greatly altered from the tale we all know, were my favorite parts.

      I hope the author writes more in this same genre (or even the same world).

      Thank you for reading and commenting :)


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