Series: The Rebel Mechanics #1
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Steampunk
Page Length: 320 Pages
Publication Date: July 14th, 2015
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Source: ARC via publisher (Thanks Macmillan!)
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
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.
I'm a fan of steampunk novels and those elements of the novel were well executed. There's lots of machinery showcased throughout this novel, as we see there's a struggle between the wealthy wanting and hoarding the magically-powered technology and the middle and poor class wanting fairer, mechanically-powered technology. Swendson did a wonderful job researching and describing New York City in 1888. I loved seeing the references to places familiar to us now. I was also fascinated by the concept of the colonies losing the Revolutionary War and still being under the influence of Great Britain. She included subtle elements like coffee houses, boycotting tea drinking, illegal newspapers without the Stamp Act-implemented stamps, etc...
The characters were great with the exception of the main character, Verity. She was dull and easily fooled. I honestly have no idea how she didn't get caught as a spy. And speaking of spying, she really was just at the right place at the right time. She wasn't really trying that hard, and I wasn't impressed or thrilled or on the edge of my seat whenever she was "spying." It was all pretty low-action and low-risk. Henry is the lord of the house, the younger brother who is watching over his deceased older brothers three children: Olive, Rolland, and Flora. Henry is aloof and thoughtful and sweet.
The romance is pretty light in this book, and I'm glad it's not the focus of the novel. I was rooting for a certain ship all throughout the book, and from the ending I have high hopes!! I will go down with this glorious ship. The second half of the book definitely piqued my interest as more things started to develop. I felt like we finally established some groundwork by the time the story ended (even though it was all on the last 20% of the book) so there's that. The writing was fair, yet the plot was a bit predictable. I hope the plot becomes a bit more intricate in the following book(s).
Overall I was disappointed by this book, but the romance ship and the ending left enough promise that I think I'll continue the series.