Friday, November 30, 2012

Me on The Friday Society

Title: The Friday Society
Author: Adrienne Kress
Release Date: December 6, 2012
Publisher: Dial (Penguin imprint)

At the turn of the century in London, there are three rather intelligent and talented young women who are assistants to rather powerful men: Cora, a lord's lab assistant, Nellie, a magician's assistant, and Michiko, a Japanese fighting assistant. The girls' lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man. It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder, and the crimes they believe are connected to it, without drawing any unwanted attention to themselves. Or they could very well be the next victims.

The Friday Society is adventurous and mysterious, a story of three very unconventional girls who get mixed up in a few spots of danger and decide, being unconventional and all, to solve the mystery all on their own. It's a rather entertaining and exciting historical girls power book, light and humourous but with some very serious consequences if they happen to fail.

All three girls are relatively similar, young female assistants to men with some amount of power or notoriety or authority, but they do have their differences. Cora is rather pragmatic, rather serious, rather head-strong and inventive, an orphan-turned-lord's lab assistant. Nellie is buckets of fun and laughs with hints of intrigue and surprise, an assistant to a rather famous magician. Michiko is possibly the most unconventional of the three, a Japanese girl who dared to defy convention to become a female samurai, but she's trapped as an assistant to a fight master she has no respect for. All three girls had their moments of danger and fun, all three knew the risks and were willing to take them as they dug deeper into the mystery plaguing London. I did wish for some more Japanese terms and phrases from Michiko in addition to her broken English, though. What characters from foreign settings add is a hint of the other world, and words from that world can make it seem magical.

When 'steampunk' is added to the list of genres and sub-genres a book is called, I can be slightly wary. I think it's because my internal view of steampunk is 'hard' steampunk: lots of gears and cogs and clockwork, lots of machines run by steam, lots of goggles made of copper or brass with a wide leather strap, and just a hit of coal dust in the air. This book certainly has the flair of a steampunk book, the wildly creative inventions, the mechanical and the mystery, the classic late 1800's/early 1900's London setting, and the sudden explosion bound to occur in a secret home laboratory.

Being that the girls are rather unconventional, they speak in a rather unconventional way. In a modern way, to be honest. I imagine that there will be some who will take issue with the historical accuracy of the voices, who don't like the modern voice, who feel that anachronisms can impact enjoyment and fictional realism. But there is another side to this coin, and that is the aforementioned unconventionality. Cora is hugely intelligent, Nellie is loud and boisterous, and Michiko is a girl who dared to break into the male world of being a samurai in Japan. Such unconventional heroines would have such unconventional voices. Also, modern voices in a historical setting could make the book sound more approachable to readers, add a dash of familiarity. I'll admit that I found it rather cheeky of the author to write the book that way, it does have a hint here and there of a modern flare that might scare away readers looking for historical accuracy, but it's fiction, and it's steampunk, and the whole book is and adventure into the mysterious.

Fun, exciting, complicated, and rather adventurous. Those looking for an intelligent and gutsy girls adventure book set in turn of the century London would certainly enjoy this. I'm curious if there will be more to come for the girls. Anything could happen, who knows what's lurking in London, hiding in the shadows and the alleyways, waiting for them to discover it. Or to trip over it.

(I received an advance copy to review from Penguin Canada.)

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