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)
Plot: Yet another retelling of Cinderella. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this book when I looked it up. Apparently, many people keep making comments about how this book is a wannabe Cinder and others are arguing it’s completely different. In my opinion, it is very similar to Cinder. Rather than aliens, the supernatural element is fae. Scratch that, there weren’t even really fae, just a lot of magic. I don’t really need to explain the plot because it is one you all know very well. It is basically the retelling of Cinderella. While not all stories need to be original, it was very tedious reading this book right after reading the Lunar Chronicles.
Characters: Nicolette- As much as fans of this book try to argue, Nicolette is very much like Cinder. Strong, independent, and good with her hands. Cinder was a space mechanic and Nicolette worked more with magic, but still a mechanic. I did admire Nicolette’s determination to make something of herself. She had a link to her mother (who also used magic) and kept up with it, even though it wasn’t allowed. She followed her passions and let them guide her.
Cover: The cover of this book is really what drew me in. I had no idea when I got this that it was another Cinderella story. I just loved the melding of the fantasy-nature setting with the machines and steampunk. It really gave a good feel for this book. I like how you can see the little mechanical bugs, but you probably wouldn’t realize they weren’t real until reading the book. Looking at this cover now is one of my favorite takeaways from this book.
Closing Thoughts: I feel like D+ is a really low score, but I can’t really give it much more. Yes, I may be biased because I just finished the Lunar Chronicles and loved them. But to me, this plot line is overplayed. And I know it is very hard to be original when so much has already been done, but it just was hard to enjoy this book when every single moment was predictable. I usually love fairy tale adaptations, regardless of how true they are to the original story. But if you don’t have something in there that mixes things up, it just becomes boring and predictable. While they alluded to there being fae, there weren’t any actual fae much in the story. And the magic was interesting, but it seemed more of a tool to just use to make cool machines. Maybe in the following book she writes, she’ll go more into the fae side of things and really mix it up. But as far as this first book goes, there wasn’t much in there that really grabbed me and made a lasting impression. To be honest, I keep forgetting I read this book. To end on a good note, I will say I did enjoy Betsy Cornwell’s writing style. It’s safe to say I probably would enjoy other books from her, but we’ll have to find out.
Where to find Betsy Cornwell: