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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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