Friday, July 24, 2015

Me on Rebel Mechanics

Title: Rebel Mechanics
Author: Shanna Swendson
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan imprint)

It's 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family's life. She soon realizes she's uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she'll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

Rebel Mechanics is entertaining, an exciting story of one young woman's new life in a city filled with magic, machines, inventors, and rebellion.

Verity is clever, honourable, and a little adventurous when she needs to be. When she feels she needs to be, when she wants to help. Now in New York, now part of multiple spaces, she aquaires new roles and personalities. The proper governess. The honest reporter. The rebel spy. She sort of falls into these spaces, the people around her seeing her, seeing the good in her and drawing her into their arms, and she never says no. After a childhood filled with books and an apathetic parent, she's looking for a place to belong. And she's found them. The magister home she becomes a part has a number of secrets, as does the rebel group of inventors and activists, but so does she. There's more to Verity Newton than meets the eye. She's hugely intelligent and investigative with a strong sense of honour. It's not about position or status with Verity. It's more about character, it's more about doing what's right. It's more about helping everyone, no matter if they're magister or not. It's about the truth.

This is a rather intriguing alternate history world. It's an America that's still under British rule, a New York where the privileged and titled are magic users, where only the magisters can use machines powered by magic in order to make their lives easier. Where those without magic aren't allowed this luxury. Where rebels and inventors are trying to build their own machines, trying to harness steam power and electricity in order to escape the ruling grasp of the magisters. Whenever there's a book with this sort of alternate history, where the British Empire still reigns over America, there's often a long-running tone of freedom and escape from imperialism coursing through the book. It stems from that moment in history where America went to war against Britain in order to obtain their freedom from the empire. As a Canadian, I always find this interesting. That in alternate histories America always asks for its freedom from Britain. It's something they will not let go of, something they will always demand. Something I'll always find a little bit charming.

I found this book to be more fun than I expected. It's a bit light, there's some suspense, a little mystery here and there. The side characters were interesting and fun. Lord Henry and the children. The Rebel Mechanics. To me, the book seems to be more about Verity and her introduction to this new world that isn't the same as her stoic and literary upbringing. She's entered a new world, a new space. She's crafted a new identity for herself here. Perhaps more than one. I'm so curious as to what happens next. There must be more, it can't end like that. There's so much that hasn't been revealed.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through NetGalley.)

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