Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Nicolette Lampton is only a child when the mother who adores her, and who she adores in return, dies slowly from a disease that her father seems unwilling to treat.  In a kingdom where the magic is no longer trusted and the Fey have been banished to Faerie, it is a difficult time to make a living with trinkets and mechanical creatures that seem more magical than they should.  When her father brings home a stepmother and two stepsisters Nicolette quietly hopes for a life full of sisters and family - but when her father also dies she discovers that her place in her new family is as a servant in her own home.  Luckily she has some small magics she can call on to help with the enormous tasks of running a large manor house, but her greatest asset is her determination to survive each day and one day reclaim her inheritance.

On her sixteenth birthday Nicolette, renamed Nick by her not so nice stepsisters, finds a letter from her mother which directs her to a hidden key.  That key will unlock not only a hidden doorway - it will also unlock the potential for a bright future.  Nick was told her mothers workshop was destroyed in a fire, it was in fact quietly rescued and hidden away.  In the workshop there are tools and materials to make all sorts of wondrous creations along with books and journals that help Nick remember the lessons she learned at her mothers knee - as well as the lessons she never had a chance to learn.  As she practices her skills Nick sets her sights on the Exhibition, because if she can gain a wealthy patron then she can leave her stepmother and stepsisters behind for good.  Along the way Nick will face challenges, disaster, and unexpected friendships as she discovers who she really is and what it means to be Mechanica (a mocking nickname that seems to fit like a glove).

Mechanica is at it's heart a retelling of the Cinderella story - but it is also much more than that.  Fractured fairy tales, as retellings are often called, can go really well or really badly depending on the author.  Luckily for Mechanica and her world, Cornwell managed to nail the story with style and flair, while also respecting the source material.  I was a little dubious when I picked up the book, and it took me a chapter or two to really enjoy it and settle in to the story, but once I did I didn't want to put it down.  Rather than a retelling set in a different time on Earth, Mechanica's world is clearly either an alternative world form ours or a completely different world altogether.  There are elements of fantasy, but there are also elements that feel a little steampunk which is a rather intriguing blend.  Cornwell eases you into the back story, providing enough details and background for you to connect with Mechanica and her world without drowning you in boring details.  As with most stories it is the characters that truly bring the story to life and somehow Cornwell even managed to breathe life into the most cliche or cliches.

This was a darling little find and it fills a gap that has desperately needed filling.  There are some amazing fractured fairy tales for older readers like the Throne of glass series by Sarah J. Maas, and there are some great playful reads for younger teens like the books from Jessica Day George but there are few books in between.  Cornwell fills that gap, providing a book that is relatively easy to read, but that also is not too babyish.  The characters are engaging, and while you can probably guess what happens along the way it is a fractured fairy tale for a reason and the ending is not exactly what you might expect.  Mechanica is no helpless damsel in distress, and it was a real pleasure to make her acquaintance - and I hope there are more tales to come from Cornwell, even if they don't include Mechanica and her world.

If you like this book then try:
  • Ella enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
  • Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The treachery of beautiful things by Ruth Frances Long
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Crown duel by Sherwood Smith
  • Dealing with dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Princess of the midnight ball by Jessica Day George
  • Water song by Suzanne Weyn
  • Beauty by Robin Mckinley
  • The storyteller's daughter by Cameron Dokey

Reviewed by Brilla

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