Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

This book didn't work for me. Like, at all. Which is why I've decided to make a list of all the things that did not work for me about this book, because I'll be honest, nothing did. Mechanica wasn't so abhorrent that I had to burn my Kindle in the fireplace to cleanse it of the story, but I came pretty close to deleting the book from my device with glee. To keep you from such an experience, here are reasons you should stay far, far away from this book.

• The book starts out with Nicolette, the main character - later called Nick, then Mechanica - describing her past, starting from when both her parents were alive. Neither her mother nor her father seemed to get along well, and so right from the start, this book becomes depressing. It seemed to me that Nick's mother didn't love her besides for the mechanical talents she had, and her father seemed very prejudiced and yet wouldn't dare stand up to his wife. By taking away what was supposed to be Nick's happy family, the author guaranteed that I would hate this "retelling". What's so magical about going from one sad life to another?

• I liked steampunk, but at the same time I'm not anywhere near a hardcore fan of the genre. All the mechanical bits usually whizz right over my head, and so imagine my dismay when the author spent an inordinately large amount of time going into detail about Nick's mother's mechanical figures and devices. It's not that I didn't understand it, but that it was so awfully dull. Nick's story was unfortunate and unpromising enough to begin with, but add to that the slow, careful description of mechanics readers are hit with at the beginning of the novel, and nearly everyone would find themselves hard-pressed to continue reading the book.

• I didn't understand the necessity of adding Fey to the story. At the start of the story I was led to believe that it would play an important part in Nick's story, but it never really played a part in the novel. Sure, the race was scattered here and there, and they came up in insults and beliefs and even Nick's mechanics, but it never played a part in the book. I'd understand if there was a sequel or something that would put it into further play, but as far as I know, this is a stand-alone. I guess you can't really know due to the open-ended epilogue, but all/most of the curiosities brought up about the Fey went unexplained.

• People are referring to this as the "feminist Cinderella", and it irks me. Mechanica is a feminist story in that Nick gets herself to the ball without a fairy godmother, but with hard work and with the help of her new friends. However, I hate how most "feminist" retellings end up with the female character independent, and yet also all on her own without a guy by the end of everything. That's not to say that this book specifically didn't have romance, because it did (unfortunately), but in general, that seems to be a presumption several people make, and I, for one, don't appreciate it. Why can't a feminist get the guy?

• On a related note, why did this book have to have romance? I love a good romance at any time of the day, but this one was just depressing - like the rest of the book. I could see what was coming from the very beginning, and seeing Nick pining after a guy was honestly annoying. And even the part of the romance that I did ship, it didn't have a definite ending. We readers are left to assume what happens, which defeats the entire purpose of this novel. Going from end to beginning, I feel like there was no point to any of this. The same story could have been told in a couple of sentences.

• The ending was the most anticlimactic thing ever; even the main character points it out. Again, there is literally nothing to be gained from reading this. And I mean, what's the point of the epilogue? It tells us nothing!

This book could have been great, if only the author had made this a story bigger than Mechanica's love life, and maybe more about, say, the role should could have had in the upcoming war between her people and the Fey. This was an utter disappointment, and I'm sorry to say I saw that coming.

Book Synopsis: 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.

Source: A copy was received from the publisher for review.

Title: Mechanica
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Steampunk, Retellings, YA
Pages: 304 pages