Sexual Content: Kissing.
Reviewed by: Julia
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.
This fairy tale retelling has big ambitions but mixed results. The note by note recasting of Cinderella with magical steampunk elements is enjoyable, but the romantic reach of MECHANICA exceeds its grasp.
Though some fairy tale retellings hide elements of the original story, MECHANICA adds a lovely steampunk gloss to familiar beats. While most of the bones stay true to the original, it is clear that the romance and political background were shaping up to promise more. The way colonialism and prejudice and magic swirl together added a wonderful depth to the world Nicolette is growing up in, and offered unresolved tension I would be interested to continue following in another book. The romantic portions of MECHANICA were less successful, however. MECHANICA tries to explore a lot between it's characters, questions of romantic or platonic feelings, hints of communal living and polyamory, but ultimately the story had a muddy, unfinished message.
While I was disappointed that MECHANICA didn't have enough time to finish (or at least better develop) the romantic beats it started, the world building was an enjoyable treat. If you're a fan of reimagining fairy tales, or like your romances ambiguous and open ended, it is worth giving MECHANICA a try.
- For an older, more dangerous take on steampunk Cinderella, try Marissa Meyer's CINDER.