Sunday, August 23, 2015
Nicolette was once rich and privileged. Her father was a successful merchant and her mother was a skilled and brilliant inventor. Both of her parents unfortunately died and now she's stuck living with her callous stepmother and her cruel stepsisters. She serves them like a slave and mostly doesn't protest because she doesn't want to leave her parents' home and her grief weighs on her greatly. On her sixteenth birthday, a letter from her mother is sent to her revealing the location of her secret workshop. Nicolette suddenly has a place safe from her stepmother and stepsisters, a new connection to her mother, and the means to possibly leave with her own business creating useful gadgets. Everything hinges on the technological exposition following the ball for the reclusive heir to the throne.
Mechanica is an interesting twist on Cinderella. Nicolette made the story for me. She is motivated to create her own way to leave her abusive step-family and will do anything she can to achieve this end. So many people in her situation would be beaten down, but she keeps persevering to change her circumstances. She has some help from automatons created by her mother and some friends she made along the way, but I like that she is largely self-sufficient. There isn't really a fairy godmother/deus ex machina to solve all of her problems with a magic wand. I also liked her realistic relationship with her parents. After people die, it's easy to idealize them and forget about all their flaws and annoyances. She sees her parents for who they are, flaws and all. Her mother prioritized her work and inventions about her husband and daughter. Her father took the credit for her mother's inventions and was incredibly intolerant of anything magic related after her mother died. Even though her parents aren't perfect, she sees both sides of them and as the people they actually were. I also liked that the focus of the story was on a chosen family and friendship rather than romance.
I had quite a few problems with Mechanica, one being the namesake. It's supposed to be a demeaning name like Cinderella, but it's not bad and there were some verbal gymnastics to get there. In the background, a faerie revolution is brewing with hatred towards faeries reigns after the humans invaded their land and treated them as inferiors. Nicolette made a few decisions I didn't agree with and had dubious thought behind them. For example, she decides to use Ashes, a magical mystery item, in her new invention. Magic is illegal to use in her city where the inventor's exposition will be and the faeries are offended that she even mentioned them. Maybe just leave them alone. Mechanica has way too many elements smooshed together: faeries (who are barely there), possibly sentient automatons, typical Cinderella story, friendship/almost romance, and steampunk-ish inventions while being completely absent of anything else in the style. It's just too much and not everything is even possible to properly cover in one book.
Overall, Mechanica is readable and entertaining, but has too many elements. I liked Nicolette, but I think her character development suffered because of this. I did like a lot about it and I might pick up the next book to see where it's going.
My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins