If you haven’t read Mechanica – the feminist, steampunk Cinderella retelling – yet, what are you waiting for? Seriously, it’s so so so good. I’m obsessed with Cinderella retellings and it’s my second favorite one of all time (Ella Enchanted will ALWAYS be number one to me, sorry Betsy!). If you have read Mechanica, then I’m guessing you are already so enchanted by the amazing world building and nuanced characters that you don’t need me to tell you to read this sequel. But I had some thoughts I wanted to write out and this is my blog, so … here we go!
Also there will be some necessary SPOILERS for book one in this series. Proceed with caution.
The book begins with Nicolette finally free of her horrible stepfamily, supported by her loving friendship with the prince and Caro, and living her dream as a celebrated inventor. The kingdom all believes in her Cinderella story and there is immense pressure for Nicolette and Fin to wed, but for right now they are content to keep things exactly the way they are. Until…Nic receives a message to bring the prince to the Faerie land for diplomatic meetings, whatever means necessary. Thus begins an adventure for the three friends across a monster-filled ocean to a land Nic has always dreamed about seeing.
What I love most about this book is how it subverts the idea of happily ever after. The prince supports Nicolette’s happy ending, but he’s not the main component of it. I LOVE a good romance plot. But the fact that romantic love isn’t the only kind of happiness available to this strong, female character makes me so happy. She cares more about following her passions, embracing her intellect, and going on adventures. What a great alternate version of a beloved fairy tale. It felt empowering for me to read this book, so I’m thrilled for all the teenagers that will get to read it too.
What also impresses me is how it challenges the idea that endings need to be happy, or perhaps the idea that endings even exist. Nic has always wanted to go to Faerie, but what she finds there is far from the idealized picture she’s had in her head. A lot of what she learns causes extreme emotional discomfort and changes the way she sees herself and her past. Warning: if you have feelings, you will cry during one particularly emotional scene.
The novel’s lyrical prose is the cherry on top of this delicious ice cream sundae of a book. I’m always in awe of Betsy’s ability to put a sentence together. Some of these sentences are just so beautiful.
So yeah…beautiful writing, interesting characters, subversion of the traditional fairytale ending – what could be better than that?