Series: Rebel Mechanics #1
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan on July 14, 2015
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.
” What if British Magic kept the American Revolution from ever occurring?”
The premise of this book is pretty amazing. My synapses salivate at the thought of how Shanna Swendson conjured this story question. There are two story worlds in this novel. One is out in the open, filled with proper aristocrats and those who wish they were. The other is clandestine, filled with working-class folk who walk on the radical side. I loved how the Industrial Revolution is being turned on its head with steam-punk machinery and I liked entertaining the thought of an American Revolution for Independence happening in the Industrial Age as opposed to the colonial days.
Verity Newton, the lovely female protagonist, has a foot in both worlds because she works as a nanny for an upper-class citizen but falls in with the proletariat crowd during her spare time. Verity is a fun, strong, conflicted character with a hint of naivete. I really hope for the chance to see her character develop more in a sequel.
There are two possible love interests to root for and I will admit to being very conflicted myself as to whose corner I was in until the very end of the novel.
Overall, the pace of the story was a tad slower than I would have preferred but I really enjoyed it despite such a minor issue. The steam-punk elements were cleverly placed within the context of historical New York on the verge of revolution and didn’t overwhelm the rest of the story which I appreciated. I will say that I would have loved to see some more historical context thrown in, even if it was alternate-historical context. It would have been fun to have more back story on that story question that originally made me purchase the book (What if British Magic kept the American Revolution from ever occurring?) Perhaps we will get that in a sequel. 🙂
Have you read Rebel Mechanics? Were you as excited to read it as I was? I’m curious as to what others thought of this one.