The Girl with the Iron Touch is the third in the Steampunk Chronicles series and this NetGalley ARC is the push I needed to read the series. I don’t normally worry about reading out of order, and really, each of these books could be read alone as a satisfying read, but they provide spoilers for the earlier books, so just be aware. As it was, I already knew I wanted to try the series, already had the first book on my to-be-read pile at home, so it made more sense to start at the beginning. What this means is that I read all three books in the span of a couple months…and enjoyed every one.
I’ve had issues with doing this in the past because the books start to sound a bit repetitive. Kady Cross gets around this problem by making it a group series but each book focuses on a different character while maturing the rest of the characters and their relationships at the same time.
The Girl with the Iron Touch is a book I’ve been waiting for because it focuses on Emily and Sam, but not without giving the others both their moments of clay feet and to shine.
For those of you new to the series, I can safely say each of the group has their own unique talent without spoilerage, and those just reaching this one know what Emily’s talent is. That talent, and the implications, is at the center of this book. That and her love for Sam, and his for her if he’d only admit it. This wouldn’t be Emily’s book if it didn’t focus on the thin line between human and machine, not with how she’d patched Sam up before the first book. He’s now kept alive with metal parts where his human ones have failed, and he’s not quite comfortable with his state of being. This makes his pairing with Emily more ironic since she is all about the contraptions, fascinated even ones that have been proved dangerous already.
It’s hard to avoid spoilers when this far into the series, so I’ll just say that the story is complete and satisfying, once again offering not just a thrilling adventure/mystery with lives on the line, but also a more philosophical question of what means humanity and life. This is why I am a firm Kady Cross fan. She gives the rollicking entertainment, but at the same time her books offer questions to ponder at leisure once the last page has been reached. Well, that and her talent with words.
Since this is an ARC, and I don’t have access to a released copy at the moment, I can’t quote the passages I called out, so you’ll have to make do with paraphrasing, but I wanted to mention some writerly stuff I noticed that made the reading experience even grander.
After a passage describing the change in scene when going from Griffin’s house to Jack’s, I wrote the following note:
This is the kind of detail that makes her writing wonderful. It’s not enough to describe. She goes the extra step and manages to slip in class differences too.
Cross talked about the move from expensive steam carriages, mechanical horses, and fancy dresses to gray and sooty Whitechapel, and how the people dressed in colors to match the area so the smudges would be hidden.
It’s a quick paragraph that shows the reader not just what the scenery looks like, but what it means and how radical the social differences. Beautifully done.
Another passage I called out was a single, sarcastic line from one of the girls about how annoying boys can be. Lines like these elevate the series from simple adventures to a visit with old friends that make me laugh even as I sympathize with their frustration.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the story as much, or maybe more in places, than the previous ones. There’s a development with Jack that’s fascinating, and I have high hopes for Jasper’s future as well. The way things blend together across the series, and how the characters develop, really gives the sense that this is not a world building as it goes along but rather one in which Cross knows how each book is going to play out so she can set the ground work earlier. It’s something she does extremely well. I’ve said it before (three times now actually if you could the Finley James novella), but Cross offers a great read. I can’t wait to see what she does next.