Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Title: Mechanica
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Published: August, 2015 by Clarion Books
Publisher's Description:

"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."

Hi there, punks! Mythpunkette here to review Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. This book was up in the air for me. When I love a book, I love it. When I hate it, I hate it. Very rarely do I fall somewhere in-between. I read this book a while ago, and I definitely needed time to let my thoughts settle. This book had so much going for it, but there were certain elements I couldn't get past.
The Good:
This book is unique. I honestly cannot compare it to anything except perhaps Cinder, but even then, Mechanica has much more emphasis on the whimsical magic of fairytales. After reading it, I can assure you one is not derivative of the other. 

The worldbuilding. The world of Mechanica was fabulously lush — the agendered Faeries, the mixing of magic and science. I have to give Cornwell serious credit for creating a truly original story. That is not an easy feat to accomplish!

The feminism. I love the narrative of Cinderella, but for my modern sensibilities, it can be a bit backwards. Often times, Cinderella is seen as a more passive character who waits for her prince to come save her. I have some problems with this, and I think Cornwell does too. In Mechanica, Nicolette takes charge of her fate and basically invents her way out from under her Stepmother's control.

There's even a reference to Jules Verne! As I started reading this book, I wondered how it could go wrong! Unfortunately it did. Here's how.
The Bad:
Pacing. I reached page 70 and almost put the book down for good because the first 70 pages were filled with worldbuilding and backstory. Granted, it was fascinating stuff, but by that time, I was craving some action. Even worse, all the backstory wasn't stuff we needed to know for the future plot. Those awesome faeries with tons of page-time in the beginning, don't really come into play. Yes, the humans are at war with them, but they have little direct influence on Nicolette and the inventions that save her. Basically, I wanted more. I was told about this awesome, misunderstood race of creatures, and then they didn't make an appearance.

Voice. The book was sold as YA, but the actual writing seemed to fit more with Middle Grade novels. The characters seemed so young and it just left me confused since it wasn't what I expected from a YA novel. What made it more confusing was the literary nature. The book seemed to focus more on the building of friendships than it did on a plot, which leads me to my next point.

There was no build up to the end. This book was one giant flatline when it came to the plot. I don't even know how to explain it, except that I kept waiting for more to happen. The book is both genre fantasy and YA which both beg for plot. Mechanica just didn't deliver.

With so much about the Faerie war left unsatisfied, I could tell the end of Mechanica was set up for a sequel. And here it is! It's expected to release sometime in 2017. Mechanica wasn't for me, but the premise of Venturess is pretty much what I wanted from the first book. Here's the publisher's description:

"Young inventor Nicolette Lampton is living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s free of her horrible step-family, running a successful business, and is uninterested in marrying the handsome prince, Fin. Instead, she, Fin, and their friend Caro venture to the lush land of Faerie, where they seek to put an end to the bloody war their kingdom is waging. Mechanical armies and dark magic await them as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries—and for themselves.

Smart and unconventional, this novel will appeal to readers of romance and adventure alike."

I'm still not sure I'll pick up the sequel. The problems of pacing, voice and plot have me wary of trying another book from Cornwell. I'm hoping she realized the struggles of the first novel and makes changes. She is a true visionary when it comes to worldbuilding, the next book just needs to have the plot to back up that world. For now, I'll wait for the first reviews before I give this series a second shot.

I give Mechanica 2 out of 5 Brass Slippers