Genres: Young Adult, Steampunk
Also by this author: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (Steampunk Chronicles, #2), The Strange Case of Finley Jayne (Steampunk Chronicles, #0.5)
Series: Steampunk Chronicles #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Libby (My Library app)
n 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one... except the "thing" inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on even if it seems no one believes her.
The Girl in the Steel Corset was a total surprise for me. It’s vaguely been on my radar for a few years now, and I finally had the chance to pick it up for the year-long Romance Roundabout Reading Challenge, a reading challenge that gives 13 romance sub-categories and challenges the reader to read 1, 3, or 5 books from each category. I, as an overachiever, am of course reading five, so this series for the steampunk category was a no-brainer for me. (See my progress here.)
First of all, I highly recommend reading the #0.5 novella The Strange Case of Finley Jane (review above) FIRST. That book lent a huge insight into Finley and to her powers, and was really a great stepping stone into this main book. Speaking of Finley… I absolutely adored her!
Finley Jayne is absolutely fierce. In fact, I may need to back and add her to my Fierce Females list that I collated this last Fall. Seriously. Physical strength may be her “gift,” but really, Finley is strong in every possible way. She’s emotionally strong and steady, something that isn’t so often prevalent in YA fiction. I love a steady and practical character, and it was just absolutely so much fun to read about a character who knows and believes in herself so strongly, as Finley does.
She easily displays the confidence that most YA heroines play at grasping. It didn’t come at some big climax where she embraces herself, her differences, and her powers, either. She had it with her all along, and although she was presented with hurtles, she was always able to clamber over them and have the confidence to grow.
Besides Finley, this book also had an excellent Found Family theme… which you know I absolutely love. You know the saying… Is it really a YA Fantasy if it doesn’t involve a “band of misfits,” preferably misunderstood, and found family themes??? I didn’t think so. This is a steampunk novel, but the saying still flies.
“I like a little fight in my girls.”
She grinned at him, causing blood to dribble down her chin.
“Then you’re going to love me.”
But really, I loved this cast of characters. Griff channels intense Gansey vibes and I’m living for it (even if this book came first). He’s such a fun love interest, as a young Duke, and a really great leader of this band of misunderstood, powerful misfits. He has so much love to give, is so patient for everyone and puts so much responsibility on himself. He could be manipulative with his subtlety, but he’s really just a really lovely cinnamon roll of a boy, and let me tell you, it works.
Emily, the 16-year-old auto-mechanic and resident doctor in the house, is a ball of sunshine. She’s so delicate and sweet and caring but takes on so much. She handles all the mechanical aspects of the home, with the robots, and also with the bio-mechanics with the medicines, salves, and surgeries. She’s a complete genius and a whiz, and I loved her to death! Jasper, too, captured my heart, even though he’s more on the outskirts of the group. A flippant American cowboy with a ready smile, teasing comment, he was sweet and genuine, and I’m sad for him. I need him to be in the group! Then there’s Sam. I know I’ll grow to love him a lot, he’s another tough guy with a heart of gold and the soul of a teddy bear, but he wasn’t having a good time in this novel. Really everyone in this novel is perfectly lovely! ?
If I had to complain, there were a few minor things. I loved how Ms. Cross allowed the technology to flavor the world, and the world-building itself was absolutely superb. But it just felt a bit… disjointed at times. Some parts had a lot of technology and were very steampunk-y, but other parts made me pause because the technology seemed almost too far advanced, and more fit for a futuristic novel. This is something I hope Ms. Cross was able to balance out better in the rest of the books. Another thing was the rules for ladies and just society’s rules in general. I understand that these kids kinda lived in their own world in the Greythorne Manor, but the way they interacted with each other seemed very modern, and not at all Victorian.
But honestly, those things aside, this whole book was lovely! It was a fun adventure novel with daring heroes and diabolical villains, and I loved the twisty take on Jekyll and Hyde that this book had – and verbally pointed out! I couldn’t help but think of how fresh this whole story was, and it was invigorating to read! It was a light book, not real heavy, which was exactly what I was looking for. I formed an attachment to each one of these characters and can’t wait to see what comes next with them.