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Book Review: The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

“I’m called Endeavor 312.” The girl- Emily couldn’t think of her as a thing- moved closer, crouched on the floor by her bed. “You are the mother.”
She frowned. “No, I’m not.”
In return, 312 cocked her head, perplexed. “Yes, you are. Your genetic material is inside my own. You speak to metal, understand it. You are our mother.”

“My genetic material…” Damnation. The warehouse where they’d taken on the Machinist. All of them would have left bits of themselves behind-blood, skin, hair. All the organites needed was a little piece of a person to copy their cellular structure. No wonder 312 looked so familiar- she was made up from bits of her, Finley, Jasper, Sam, and Griffin. Not only was she a sentient machine on the verge of becoming almost completely human, there was a very good chance she might exhibit one, if not all, of their talents. She might even develop some of her own.
And she was at the whim of that awful spider creature. That was almost as disconcerting and frightening as the fact that the Machinist was not only alive but close by. He had to be in deplorable condition to require such treatment. Could he communicate with them at all? Of course they would protect him, try to save him. If she was their “mother,” because she could speak to them then Leonardo Garibaldi was their father, because he had literally given them life by using the organite power source to power their logic engines.
That was a thought that made her want to be physically ill, and it wasn’t all because of the concussion. This … girl could prove to be the most dangerous and powerful creature in Europe, perhaps the world, and she was at the control of a madman. Or, at least, at the control of a madman’s creations.

Brilliant.


The Girl with the Iron Touch is the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles by author Kady Cross (her young adult pen name). Picking up where The Girl in the Clockwork Collar left off, Griffin, Emily, Sam, and Finley are back in London, and trying to figure out how to work as a team and how to deal with not only Griffin’s growing powers but also their own personal relationships. Emily has come into her own by being able to talk to machines, but is completely frustrated by not being able to make Sam understand her true feelings- partially because of Sam’s own issues and partially because of her own. However, when the Machinist’s creatures take Emily to help with their mission of bringing him back to a more useful form, Sam’s and Emily’s relationship will be tested in ways they never could imagine.

Girl with the Iron Touch was a wild ride, and definitely delved further into the relationship aspects within the group originally formed in the series than previously touched on. The fact that it considers serious issues (e.g. what makes a person, how human are you), and how it draws on inspiration from Shelly’s Frankenstein, make this more than just a fast-paced steampunk adventure. There is sexual content (sexual assault in the past and reactions is talked about, as well as a a current physical relationship is described tastefully), moreso than in the previous books, though not explicit at all. 3.75 out of 5 stars. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads has Girl with the Iron Touch rated as 3.96 stars. Definitely can be paired with any of the steampunk reads that we have talked about in the past, including these:



SPOILER SPACE



I really like this series, and have since the beginning. I love the fact that Kady is pulling inspiration from the Victorian era literature for inspiration (Frankenstein for this one) and they can easily be paired with their inspiration; with nonfiction on the technology they’re using, the genetic technology of the organites; and with comic series like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I love the complicated relationships between the characters- the fact that Finely and Griffin are stumbling over each other, that Jasper is still torn over what happened in the last book, and that Sam and Emily can’t seem to find the right words. What bugged me about this book is that I was expected *more* about Emily, more of her backstory and history, more of her relationship with Sam, and for them to really shine. Finley and Griffin were the stars in The Girl in The Steel Corset, and Jasper was the main story in The Girl in the Clockwork Collar.  In The Girl with the Iron Touch, yes, it progressed Emily and Sam’s story and relationship, but it pushed Griffin’s story more, and to me that was a little disappointing.

One thing that I adore in this series is that it realistically deals with the situation women were (and actually still are) placed in when dealing with sex. In Emily’s backstory readers knew that she was abused in the past, and in Girl with the Iron Touch we find out that she was raped, by someone that she knew and trusted. She ended up taking revenge, but she didn’t tell anyone because no one would have believed her- this was a friend of the family, someone that her family entrusted her safety with. The same is true today.  You can read stories and police reports about kids and teens who don’t report abuse of any kind because they know that no one will believe them because it’s a family member, or a friend of the family, someone they and/or the family trusted.

And Emily is still dealing with the aftereffects of the rape to this day:  it colors her relationships with others, and the way she reacts.  This is the same with abuse survivors.  You never forget, and even though you can survive it, you will never be the same.  Reading Emily’s story is powerful, and something that I don’t think we find often enough in YA literature. When 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and 44% of sexual assaults are to teens 18 and under, it’s something that needs to be talked about.

For more information about sexual assault statistics, or ways you can help, check out the RAINN website.

Book Review: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

Wildcat turned her attention to Finley. “I know you. You’re the one that was here with the Irish witch.”

“She would prefer to be called a scientist” came Finley’s drawled reply. “I’ll give her your regards.”

The dark girl turned back to Jasper. “She’s almost as much a smart-arse as you. She all you brought?”
“I got a driver, but he’d rather see me dead that do me a favor.” Then he grinned. ‘But if you know my friend, you know she’s enough.”

The girl nodded, grime-streaked face serious. “All right, then. You know what has to be done.” And then she stepped across the threshold,  a baseball bat in her hands. Its wood was smooth and stained brown with old blood. A dozen other girls and fellas followed after her- some armed, some not.

“Jasper?” Finley asked warily. “What the devil’s going on?”

He turned to her with what he hoped was a suitably apologetic expression. “When I left the piece with Wildcat, she told me if I ever came back she’d ‘beat the snot out of me.'” Technically, he hadn’t left he part with Cat. It had gotten left behind when she kicked him out. He was simply relived she still had it.
Finley’s eyes widened. “Are you telling me we have to fight? All of them?” she gestured at the gang standing in the street behind Wildcat.

Jasper nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Jasper Renn, taken back to America from the Greythorne estate supposedly to answer for a murder in San Francisco, has disappeared into the hands of his former friend, Reno Dalton.  Held against his will, Dalton wants to Jasper to piece back together a machine they stole together- a wondrously evil machine that can change a man’s fortune, or a thief’s life- and Jasper’s former love Mei is being used against him to make him cooperate.  One false move from either of them, and the clockwork collar around her neck tightens.  And tightens.  Griffen, Finley, Sam, and Emily are in New York trying to help from the outside (and inside as well) but can they figure out what the machine is, and what they can do to help Jasper and Mei, and stop Dalton, before time is up?
The second installment in Kady Cross’ Steampunk Chronicles finds the reader transported from 1897 London to New York, where evil is lurking in former friends, and betrayal is in surprising places.  Moving faster than The Girl in the Steel Corset (mainly because the author assumes you know about the world by now), Griffen and his “special branch” move into the Waldorf Astoria and infiltrate New York society (both high and low) in order to find Jasper, and thwart Dalton and his master plan.   The team still doesn’t quite trust each other yet, and the triangles in the first book carry over into the second, adding tension.  Growing abilities, and the work of Dr. Telsa and his machinery add to the danger as well.  Readers interested in ties to New York in the late 1800’s could read The Luxe series, while steampunkers would definitely feel a tie for the Leviathan and Airborn series with the emergence of Tesla in this book.  3.5 stars out of 5.  Goodreads has Girl in the Clockwork Collar rated at 4.08 stars as of February 10, 2013.
I enjoyed Clockwork Collar a little more and a little less that Steel Corset for different reasons.  I wanted more character building of the original characters, and Clockwork Collar  is more Jasper’s story- even though we get more of Finley and Griffin’s relationship and their bumps about trusting each other, it’s all about Jasper’s back story.  For a character who will not be continuing on, I wish that the focus was somewhere other than Mei- and I know what was going on with her about a third of the way through the book, so to be proven right made a difference I think.  I loved Finely’s and Emily’s relationship, and the more hints and reveals about Emily’s past, that made me love the book more.  I like that both Finley and Emily can take care of themselves, and that is made abundantly clear throughout the book- in fact, there is no shortage of female characters throughout this series that can take care of themselves.  
I didn’t like that Griffin made excuses for how he treated both Finley and Emily (there’s a passage in the book when Finley confronts him where he silently justifies to himself that that’s the way he was brought up)- hopefully he’s broken of that train of thought quite quickly.  I also didn’t like that the author didn’t quite explain what was going on with Griffin’s abilities, or Telsa’s inventions, or the malformations in the Aether, but I can hope that there will be more books to come that will assuage my curiosities.  I’m itchy when there are unresolved plot points in a book.

Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

“What have I done? she whispered.
What you had to do.
She felt his neck for a pulse, relief engulfing her as she found it. She hadn’t killed him.  At least she wouldn’t hang. But she had still attacked the son of a peer of the realm and there would be consequences.
Three jobs in three months and they’d all ended with an experience like this one, although this was be far the worse  She’d been let go from each position because of her behavior, something that had released this thing inside her. Urges to act in a way that was far from civilized, far beyond what she as a young woman should be capable of.
They’d bring the law down on her from this. They’d lock her up. Or worse, use her for scientific experiments in New Bethlehem Asylum- Bedlam. And they would experiment on her once they realized she was abnormal.
Run, the voice inside her whispered. Run away.
Listening to the voice had gotten her into this mess, perhaps it would get her out. There was no way Lord Felix wouldn’t exact retribution upon her for harming him-either by finishing what he’d started or by bringing the authorities down upon her. There was no way she was going to let him do what he wanted to her. No way she’d risk having her brain dissected for giving him less that what he really deserved.
So Finley listened to the voice and ran.

After the young lord of the manor tries to take definitely unwanted advantages  Finley Jayne runs out into the dark 1897 London night, straight into the velocycle path of Griffin King.  Griffin, the Duke of Greythorne, sees that the other voice Finley has makes her one of his “special branch,” those with dark magical abilities- Sam, who is stronger than can be normal; Emily, who can understand machines, and Griffin himself, who can connect with the Aether. And when they and England are threatened by a villain called the Machinist, can they bring their abilities together to defeat him, or will they die trying?

Kady Cross makes an engrossing first novel in her Steampunk Chronicles. Tying in themes from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and other Victorian gothic stories into the back story of her characters, The Girl in the Steel Corset can start off slow for those not interested in the cogs and boggles of the technology of Cross’s London, or the universe which she is building.  It is definitely heady information, and for those readers with a mechanical bent, it’s heaven to see how the world is built.  However, readers interested in romance who get to the triangles between Finley, Griffin and Jack, or Sam, Emily and Jasper will definitely be rewarded.  The book very obviously sets up for the sequel, the Girl in the Clockwork Collar, which is extremely nice as the ending is almost an abrupt cliffhanger that jerks you back to reality.  You could pair this with Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series or the works of Kenneth Oppel or Cherie Priest for the steampunk aspects, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which the author references herself as an inspiration) for older readers.  3.25 stars out of 5.  Goodreads ranks The Girl in the Steel Corset at 3.86 stars as of February 10, 2013.


So, to be fair, I am a geek, and lean a bit on the techy side, and loves me some steampunk.  So I really liked this series.  I LOVED the references to the Gothic and Victorian literature that was present during the late 1800’s, and the fact that Cross is putting her own twists on various famous literary creations.  I’m waiting for more to pop out.

I like the fact that Finley was able to take care of herself, and that she’s deciding what she wants and on her own timetable- a lot of romances that are set in this era (admittedly for adults) are oh, you must wed the Duke/Count/Nobleman and then make the best of it, and then they fall together forever and ever and everything is perfect.  Nope, not here, and I don’t think there will be perfect shiny happy ever with the way their powers are going.  Even though Finley merges her personalities by the end, who knows where that is going to lead to.  The fact that Griffin is growing in his abilities to reach the Aether, as well as Emily gaining abilities she didn’t even have before coming to the estate, leads me to believe that things will get dicey rather quickly.

I’m enjoying the series, but I’m not sure that I would recommend it to my romance readers- I’d definitely give it to my steampunkers and my geeks, but the first chunk of the book could put off the romancers who want more story and less world building.

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