Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
What a fun book! I thought Mechanica was a cute retelling of the Cinderella story. While nothing too drastic in terms of reworking the story, Mechanica set the familiar tale in a steampunk inspired setting. When I was first reading, I felt that the story was too close to the original but as I continued to read on the magical setting of steampunk workshops and fantastic inventions swept me away.
Mechanica’s mother was an established inventor, creating mechanical insects that can perform tasks or add beauty. Mechanica inherited her ingenuity and finds her secret workshop once her parents pass and her evil step family moves into their estate. Swept off to the corners of the estate, Mechanica is forced to work, much like the original story. However, she creates machines and inventions to accomplish most of the cleaning, sewing, and other tasks. This allows her to focus on unlocking the secrets to her mothers inventions. Instead of birds and mice, there are gear insects and automatons. Absolutely charming!
The best thing about this novel is the celebration of the intellect and imagination of women. Mechanica is not a damsel in distress but a strong woman who uses her mechanical inclinations to create amazing inventions in the hope of escaping her oppressed existence. She is her own fairy godmother creating her glass slippers out of the raw materials, blowing the glass and including gears for movement. The horse that pulls her carriage is a creation made by following the steps of her mothers guide books and her carriage is made by hand in a secret cottage just off the estate to escape the prying eyes of her step family.
The ball in the book is being held as an opener to her worlds exposition, showing off the best inventive minds of the world and their creations. I love that, for Mechanica, going to the ball was to satisfy her desire of being around the greatest minds of her time. Her grand entrance still catches the eye of the prince, but she is more concerned about the floating chandelier, the steam punk inventions buzzing about, and the anxiety of the upcoming exposition where she will show off her own inventions.
Mechanica is a story of the power of a woman, not focused on a man rescuing her. Even though there is a prince charming in the storyline, Mechanica makes her own magic. Her inventions, particularly her fused glass and gear slippers, are her way of getting out of her oppressed station.
- Absolutely charming atmosphere of steampunk and inventions
- Woman power! Ingenuity! Inventions! Magical!
The Not So Good
- It still stuck very close to the original story
If you are looking for a cute read and love fairytales, this is for you!