In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.
Genre: fantasy; steampunk; history
Note: #3 for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge; 1 Read-a-Thon book
Abandon all hope, ye who avoid spoilers. This book I had such high hopes for and it let me down so hard, so allow me to vent. Look at that beautiful cover. Hear how intriguing that title is. I know everyone says not to judge a book by its cover, but I do and hard. I think books should be visually appealing as well as well written. By that standard of things, this book is gorgeous. Unfortunately for me it was all downhill from there.
It's not that Cross is a bad writer. She's not. There's none of the clunkiness that is sometimes a problem in sentence structure. Her problem is characters and plot. And for me, who has always very much been fixated with character writing, that's a problem. The main protagonist isn't bad. Finley is a pleasant character, though her guilt over things (specifically Sam, which I will get to) makes no sense. Griffin is what we called in fanfiction writing, a Gary Stu, or a male character who has no flaws whatsoever. He doesn't as he's handsome, intelligent, caring, talented, I'm sure he could probably sing and dance. Interestingly, he's not the worst character problem to me. That honor is a tie between his aunt Cordelia and best friend Sam. Cordelia maybe gets away with her character problems better. She's arrogant, snobby, and elitist. She makes Finley's life miserable for no other reason than that she didn't trust Finley's father. Yet I got the impression that you were supposed to forgive her this behavior because she was "doing it to protect Griffin". That's nice and all, but she's still a jerk who we are implied we should like for no real good reason. Sam is the greater problem. There's no reason to like him. At all. Other than the characters seem to like him for some unfathomable reason. He's a jerk. All he does in the book is mope around about the fact he has mechanical parts and was "brought back to life when he didn't want to be". He manages to stupidly give up every secret about his friends. He's never grateful his friends saved his life. Worst, he attacks Finley and tries to kill her. He punches her several times and tries to strangle her and really isn't all that sorry about it. Yet all his friends are "oh the poor thing". I'm sorry, no. Not a poor thing. He beat up a woman, the very thing one reviled side character did. And he's also the main romantic interest for the rather likable Emily, so we're supposed to LIKE him.
And then there's the "mystery" of what the Machinist is up to. One of my favorite movies when I was little was The Great Mouse Detective. I loved it. The plot revolved around the evil Ratigan trying to build an automaton Queen Victoria and replace the real one with it. THIS BOOK HAS THE SAME PLOT. I seriously kept expecting the Machinist to be revealed to be a sewer rat.
So, this book wasn't poorly written technically, just to me, very poorly conceived.