Kady Cross is a good example of how the free novella to introduce a new series and author can really work. I read The Strange Case of Finley Jayne (reviewed) a while back when it was offered by eHarlequin and enjoyed it enough to put Kady Cross in my head. Then I saw The Girl in the Steel Corset when I was making a purchase on eHarlequin, and something clicked. Next thing I knew, it was in my cart and added to my TBR pile.
However, I have a lot of things in my TBR pile, more now that I get titles through NetGalley with dates attached. I knew it was there, and I knew I wanted to read it, but it wasn’t until the third book (which I thought was the next at the time) showed up on NetGalley that I pulled it from one of the many book piles and settled in.
I’m kicking myself that I waited so long.
The Girl in the Steel Corset delivers on the promise of the novella admirably (by the way, they did the kindness of including the novella as well). It took me a sec to orient because while the end of the novella might have seemed the beginning of something new, in reality, she went back to her normal life once her adventure had ended, a normal live that never quite fit this extraordinary girl.
In Steel Corset, Finley learns she’s not the only one a little beyond normal, and even discovers the reason behind their state along with her new friends (though not all are friendly toward her): Griffin, Max, Emily, and Jasper.
What unfolds is a daring steampunk mystery blended with complex and compelling characters who each have their own reasons for loyalty to Griffin, their de facto leader, and their own troubles or fears. This is not a light and cheery book, though it has its moments, and neither is it all dark and gloom. It’s an adventure with real consequences where a group of young people and their associates must put the pieces together before the Machinist, a character known only by his apparently random acts of havoc, completes his nefarious plan.
That might sound melodramatic and over-blown, but you’ll have to trust me that it fits in with the late-1900s setting. This novel brings in social commentary, a real sense of place, and the mad inventor/Wild West adventurer feel that exists in my favorites in the steampunk genre. I liken it to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which pulled me back into steampunk with a vengeance.
There are a few minor flaws, not enough to spoil my enjoyment, but the kind of thing I’ll be looking to see if Cross improves in book two (which I’m in the process of obtaining because I have time before the NetGalley review is due). The treatment of her characters as adults (which they are by behavior and timeframe) then the description of them as “boys” (I noticed it more with the boys than girls) was jarring at times. However, young adults didn’t quite exist in the 1900s by our standards either. The only other issue was the tone of dialogue sometimes, mostly with Emily and her “lad”s.
I only mention the flaws so if you trip over them as well, you’ll know I didn’t gloss over them. They are growth points in an author, and certainly not of enough significance to spoil my enjoyment, or my plan to continue in the series and infect my son with them. Another series for him to steel when it comes in the door on the pretense (accurate as it is) that he reads faster than I do.