Publication date: August 25, 2015
by Clarion Books
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.
-A copy was provided by Clarion Books for review-
Don’t get me wrong – despite my three-star rating, this has got to be the most refreshing Cinderella reimagination I’ve read.
I’ve always wanted more fairy tale retellings in a Steampunk setting. It’s new, it’s unique, and visualizing all the gears and machines around characters who are based on our favorite tales from childhood simply gives me the warm fuzzies. All the possibilities! All the unique things our character can do with herself and with her surroundings!
In that aspect, this book certainly delivered.
Do you remember how Disney portrayed our favorite fairy tale heroines in the early 90s (and well before that) as ladies who needed a man in order to be happy? Remember how romance was the be-all end-all to their Happy Ever Afters?
Well, Mechanica takes all that and throws it out the window.
I love how feminist this book was. I love how Nicolette was brought up loving engineering and making things out of gears and machines and little trinkets. She was independent, strong-willed, and determined to do something that would make her stable enough to get out of her stepfamily’s clutches. She made this her goal, and it was very empowering to see a heroine who didn’t wait for things to happen to her and who tried to put her future in her own hands.
And the romance! Or the lack of it. I think the best part about this book was how love was portrayed. It’s definitely not the usual one we’d expect from a retelling of tales that are majorly about “they married and lived happily ever after.” Instead of emphasizing on loving a prince who sweeps you off your feet, it’s more about loving yourself. That whether or not he is there in your life, that doesn’t make you any less of the person you are and who you’re meant to be.
And my friends, that is bloody beautiful.
My only qualm about Mechanica is that, as Emily May stated in her review, it is told in a rather dull way. It is easy to read and it is easy to follow, and the heroine is absolutely likeable, but there is really no excitement in the storyline. It’s like following the average person lead their life without any exciting events, and if there were any, it was told in an anti-climactic way. There was no climax. I waited for some heart-stopping scenes to happen, only to realize that I’m already at the end. There wasn’t even enough internal conflict/struggle to satisfy me.
All in all, this book was enjoyable. I know I rooted for the main character. I know I cheered when she decided to prioritise herself. If you want girl power, you can’t go wrong with this.