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I Belong

Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Mechanica_hresTitle: Mechanica

Author: Betsy Cornwell

Genre: YA High Fantasy

Series: N/A

Publication Date: August 25, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages

ISBN-10: 0547927711 (Clarion/HMH)

ISBN-13: 978-0547927718 (Clarion/HMH)

Reviewed by: Bridget


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.

Quick & Dirty: Despite the slow start, this ended up being a very entertaining story filled with engaging characters, sweet romance, and a beautiful setting! I would highly recommend this to all young adult fantasy fans!

Opening Sentence: Take the key from your grandmother’s portrait.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Nicolette was the daughter of a very wealthy merchant. Their fortune came from her father selling her mother’s amazing inventions. Nick loved all of her mother’s inventions and at a very young age she started to learn the trade, but unfortunately her training stopped when her mother died unexpectedly. Her father soon remarried a wealthy woman that had two daughters. Nick thought that she would get a new family, but instead her father passed away and she was turned into a servant in her own house.

But when she turned sixteen she receives a mysterious letter at her bedroom door that leads her to her mother’s secret workshop. Soon Nick starts to train again by reading all of her mother’s old journals and notes. She quickly realizes that she is talented and for the first time in years she has hope that she can change her future. There is a technological exposition being held in just a few short months and if Nick can get someone to fund some of her inventions she can support herself and finally live the life she wants.  On her journey she meets new friends and a prince that captures her attention, but does she really want to live the happily ever after everyone thinks she should or does she want to live her own kind of happily ever after?

Nicolette is an interesting protagonist that I found to be very likeable. For the last 10 years of her life she has just been going through the motions and not really living. After the death of her mother she was devastated and her entire life was turned upside down. She had an ok relationship with her father but it wasn’t anything like the closeness she felt to her mother. At a very young age her mother started training her how to create inventions and Nick fell in love with all aspects of mechanics. As she grew up this love only grew and she was always trying to find ways to use her very limited skills. When she finds her mother’s workshop she is able to really perfect and develop her talents.

I loved watching Nick grow throughout the story. She is obviously very intelligent, but she is a little on the awkward side when it comes to interacting with others. She starts out as this shy girl with very little confidence, but as you read the story she slowly gains more and more confidence. She goes from someone that just does what she is told to a girl that takes charge of her own destiny and makes her own dreams come true. She does have some flaws as well, but nothing that bugged me or annoyed me in any way.  Overall, I thought she was a very inspirational character and I really enjoyed reading her story.

For the most part this story was just about Nicolette and the very few people she interacts with. There is a fairly large cast of secondary characters and I really enjoyed getting to know all of them, but to not spoil anything I am just going to leave them out of this review!

Mechanica is an adorable story that I loved, but it was a rough start for me. I started reading this and I actually put it down after about 30 or pages because it just wasn’t keeping my interest. I’m not sure if it was just the mood I was in or if it was the story itself, but I seriously considered not finishing it. Then I was talking to a few of my great bookish friends and they told me how much they loved it so I decided to give it another try and I am so glad I did. I did have to push through the first 75 pages or so, but after that I was totally hooked. The steampunk world was captivating and I loved how it was lightly based on the fairy tale Cinderella. The characters were engaging and very easy to connect with. There is very little romance in the story, but the little there was written really well. It was a pretty quick read for me, which normally I feel like fantasies seem to take me a while to get through because there is so much to process when you are being introduced to a new world. But with Mechanica that’s not the case and I found it quite refreshing. The ending was not what I was expecting, but it really worked with the story. I believe this was written as a standalone, but things were left pretty open so Cornwell could easily write a sequel and I hope she does. While I did have a hard time with the book at first, I would still highly recommend it to any young adult fantasy fans!

Notable Scene:

I dug through the desk drawers, selecting a few matched pairs of gears. I held them against my instep, estimating the fit as best I could—I didn’t have time to work out full measurements and diagrams. When I was satisfied with my choices, I turned toward the furnace. I had no dyes left, but I thought that perhaps clear glass would be best, after all. Then people could see the gears working, could see each of my steps. The shoes could be the final component of my display. Even if they didn’t turn out to be comfortable, they’d certainly be unique.


FTC Advisory: Clarion Books/HMH Publishing provided me with a copy of Mechanica.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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