Oh how I wanted to love this book. I thought the premise was pretty interesting. A young serving girl, Finley, fights the dual sides of her personality, one dark/one light. The dark side helps her survive difficult situations. She takes refuge with a young duke, Griffin, who also has otherworldly powers. He has a band of companions who are also gifted. Sam has supernatural strength, Emily is super smart and talks to machines, Jasper is super fast. The story takes place in Victorian England, but not our England. This is Cross’s steampunk version with automatons, velocycles (motorcycles), modern surgery, digital cameras, showers and all kinds of other modern conveniences. Our gang sets out to fight the evil Machinist whose dastardly plot isn’t revealed until the final chapters but clever readers will figure out very quickly.
Being a supernatural teen novel of course there not one but two love triangles…both of which are underdeveloped and not very necessary. I really don’t get the need for love triangles and in this book in particular they are completely unnecessary. The love interests themselves are so underdeveloped to be unbelievable. But that isn’t even the worst offense of the book.
I like steampunk. I can’t say I have read a whole lot of it, but what I have read I generally enjoy. Really well done steampunk integrates itself into the normal history of the world and becomes part of it. This book reads more like a future world forced into Victorian England. At points you pretty much forget that it is set in Victorian times and almost believe that you are in the future or at least modern times. Cross didn’t do a good job of integrating her modern tech into the historical era. It doesn’t fit; it isn’t part of the world; and you can’t make me believe it. There are instances that are just thrust in there for no reason…really a digital photo…seriously! In a world where everyone is riding horses and using carriages doesn’t it seem odd that our group would use motorcycles? Also, no one acts like people from the Victorian era. Their mannerism are all wrong; they are too modern and familiar for that era. But that isn’t the worst offense.
No the worst offense was the plot. I am sorry to say that it just fell flat. It had potential but just didn’t pan out. First, it was overly long which means there was way too much filler and exposition and not enough action. There was way too much tell and not enough show. There was also a lot of points brought up that were either not explored, dropped, or not sufficiently explained…the fact that Finley is the daughter of Jekyll and Hyde, the orgnanites, the aether, the work that is done for the queen, etc. Jack Dandy was an intriguing character who as far as I could see served no purpose but to be part of a love triangle. The villain was so obvious that I had it figured out as soon as we met him, yet the characters were too dense to see him or his plot. The characters themselves didn’t have a lot of density; they were very one dimensional. I could go on and on.
There is much better steampunk out there. Skip this one and find something else. I suggest Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.
Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher, but obviously was not paid to review it.