Title: The Inventor's Secret
Author: Andrea Cremer
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin imprint)
Charlotte has lived on the edge of Britain's industrial empire, hiding deep in the Catacombs, ever since she can remember. She and her fellow refugees are preparing for the day when they can join the Resistance and fight against the crown. But when an exile with no memory seeks shelter in their camp, he brings with him new dangers and secrets about the terrible future that awaits them all. His presence compels them to leave the safety of the Catacombs to seek answers in Britannia's exquisite Floating City. But Charlotte finds more than just answers there, and navigating a world of high society and political intrigue turns out to be more treacherous than the revolution itself.
The Inventor's Secret is curious and complicated, a tale of revolution and technology, of the elite and the down-trodden, of the ruthlessness of truth and the lengths those who want to hide and reveal it go to. It's an entertaining adventure in an alternate past filled with intrigue, secrets, and clockwork.
Charlotte is a girl born into a revolution who will one day fight against the Empire and its continued hold on America. She understands some of the world but not all of it. In the beginning she takes action, she searches for answers when secrets are concealed in front of her, but as the book progressed I found her taking on more of a reacting role. Being in a foreign setting like the Floating City, where she knows nothing of polite society and its shining traps, it's understandable, but there were times when I wished she took on a more active role. When I wanted her to demand to be told the truth. Hopefully, she'll take a more active role in the next book.
It's also understandable that Charlotte would know nothing, or next to nothing, of romance. There's no time in her life for it, for mooning over young men. All she needs to know is how to scavenge and how to survive. When the romance was introduced, I didn't mind it, I welcomed it. It was ragged at the beginning because she felt conflicted, but then the twist occurred and I lost interest. It felt rather rushed and more like a plot device, it didn't happen naturally. It felt like it was there only to add tension and conflict to the romance.
I'm often fascinated by steampunk when it appears in books, by technology not involving electricity, by machines that run on steam and clockwork gears, by gleaming silver and polished bronze crafted to look like objects or animals used for practical purposes. Here it works, and I'm curious as to where the author will take it.
In a way, steampunk seems to go hand in hand with alternate history. Here, there's no creation of the United States as we know it in the present day. No freedom or liberty but the British elite living off the blood and sweat of the working class. Poverty, near slavery. What will it take for the revolution to finally rise up and fight back? And what will the cost be?
I would agree that there is an adventure here, that it's full of action, tension, secrets, and lies. I'm curious about the world introduced here, the different machines, the secret Charlotte and her friends have discovered. I want to know more about the mission and the adventure.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)