Finley – She’s stronger then the average girl and she has a darker side, but she doesn’t know why or where it comes from. We learn that it comes from her father, and an experiment her father was conducting on himself (he was the inspiration for Jekyll and Hyde in this story). And it also comes from the Organites (the the little beasties as Emily calls them). She’s strong and helps save the day. She also seems to have a thing for Griffin and maybe Jack Dandy too.
Duke of Greythorne/Griffin – One of the wealthiest men in Britain. He’s smart, rich, good looking… and he has a secret – he’s something of a protector of the realm. His parents were killed and they had worked for the Queen (and it’s Queen Victoria here) and his parents journeyed to the center of the Earth where they found the ore that powers all the machines and automatons. They also found the Organites. The Duke and his friends work to keep the world safe. He develops a thing for Finley. He also has power to enter and manipulate the Aether – they spirit realm. He can communicate with ghosts and learn things and he has the ability to sooth Finely’s darker side. There is a side effect of his abilities to manipulate the Aether though – and it’s dangerous to him.
Sam – One of Griff’s friends. He’s abnormally strong. But, in an accident with the Machinist, he is almost killed. Emily has to replace his arm with a machine arm and she uses the Organites to help him heal. We learn when he does that Emily had to replace much more then just his arm and he is angry about it. His heart had to be replaced. Because of his anger he develops a friendship with Leon – who we learn later is the Machinist. And he doesn’t trust Finley. Luckily, he comes around though. And becomes part of the group again.
Emily – a young girl who lives with Sam and Griffin. She’s in love with Sam. And she’s a genius with machines. She develops an additional skill on top of her genius – she can speak to machines and they can speak to her. She creates all the weapons, tools, toys, etc. that that group uses. She’s also not sorry at all that she saved Sam. She and Finley become friends.
Jasper – An American who helps out. At one point he tries to tell Griffin something, but we don’t know what. His talent is that he is extraordinarily fast – faster than any normal human. He helps save the Queen and then at the end get arrested and taken back to NY, but we don’t know why (it’s said he’s wanted for murder, but we don’t know any details).
Cordelia – Griffin’s aunt. She’s technically his guardian but it’s in name only. She too was part of the group with Griffin’s parents and Finley’s parents who journeyed to the center of the Earth and she is a spy (of sorts) for the British.
Jack Dandy – a crime lord from Whitechapel who strikes a friendship with Finley. He has a thing for her. And despite his feelings for her and his jealousy of Griffin, he helps the crew out – but stays anonymous with respect to that.
the Machinist – the villian. He is stealing things from different places, and at first is seems random. But, he has a plan to kill the queen and replace her with an automaton that looks just like her. It turns out he was part of the group that went to the center of the Earth too. But he disagreed with the Queen’s decision to keep the Organites secret and he killed Finley’s real father and Griffin’s parents. He is seemingly killed at the end when the building collapses on him, but his body (and the machine Victoria) are not found in the rubble.
Main Premise: Finley is attacked by her newest employer – or rather the son of her newest employer. She defends herself and runs away. She is rescued by Griffin though. Griffin takes her in. Sam distrusts her, Emily takes a liking to her, and she ends up becoming part of the crew. And the crew is looking to figure out what the Machinist is up to and stop him. And they do. They discover that the thefts were all related and designed to help the Machinist replace Queen Victoria with a automaton Victoria.
Other Important Things to Remember for Later: The Machinist’s body was missing. Jasper was arrested and taken back to NY for some as-of-yet unknown reason. The Organites help people heal, they amplify the special abilities of the group – and maybe speed up evolution. Finley owes Jack a dinner. Emily has an automaton cat that she built (I mention it only because I loved it!)
Review: Good, but not exactly what I expected. I figured we wold see more of her current employer, and I knew we would see something of the Duke, but it turns out I had my expectations (which were based on the prequel) a little backwards. And I am glad. I like the crew that we have now.
For those who have read the prequel, it’s worth getting it (and when I got it, it was free from Amazon). For those that haven’t – Finley is different from other girls, she’s stronger, and she has a dark side. Sometimes the dark side takes over. But usually, that’s only when she feels threatened. She is employed as a maid, but when the son in the house who has a reputation for hurting the girls who work in the house tries to take advantage of Finley, she defends herself. She runs away knowing that her self-defense against someone of a higher class won’t go over well. She is rescued by Griffin. Emily isn’t sure what to think about her, Sam doesn’t trust her, but Griff gives her the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, Sam, Emily and Griffin are trying to solve a mystery – why the Machinist is stealing thinks like the Queen’s wax statute and her hairbrush.
The long and short of it is that the group needs to save the day from the Machinist and his evil automatons who have seemed to run amok (or at least afoul of their programming). And they do. And they become a group in the meantime. Finley becomes part of the close knit group, Sam starts to see the light and makes things right with Emily and Jasper is taken off to America, where I expect the next book will take place.
If you like steampunk, this is a good book to pick up. And if you are new to it, this is still a good book to pick up. We get action, adventure, references to other literature (I love it when books claim to explain where other works of fiction come from – here we are told that Finley’s dad is the inspiration for Jekyll and Hyde). There was just enough reality interlaced with the steampunk that it was fun to imagine the setting. References to a journey to the center of the earth gave us great things to imagine and room for so much more to come later.
The relationships between our main characters, and how those relationship grow and develop (especially between Finley and Emily and Emily and Sam) is satisfying and fun to read. Sam’s reaction to learning about his heart felt real and his turning to someone else, outside the group also felt natural. It was an interesting story and the plot, with the Organites and replacing Victoria was interesting and unique. What was a little missing from the character development and relationship front was a little more time spent b Finley and Griff together. We get the sense of a budding relationship (and potentially a love triangle with Jack Dandy), but we get very very little of where these feelings come from. I would have like to see more.
There were a few minor inconsistencies that troubled me a little – but I mean just a little – Finley made friends with Phoebe, in her mind genuinely as far as the prequel tells us, but she again here tells us that she’s never really had a friend. And there seems to have been a timing issue as far as how many jobs she’s had recently (at least as far as I could piece it together). But those inconsistencies were small and can be overlooked. Especially since the rest of the story was so much fun.
I loved where the title came from – the steel corset that Emily made for Finley. There were so many great gadgets, and the way current technology was retro-fitted into steampunk creations was creative and interesting. The descriptions were vivid but not overpowering. I love it when I read and see the movie of what I am reading in my head – and the author gave me enough for those pictures to form, without the scenery being overburdensome so as to distract from the characters or the story. The bad guy who’s maybe not really such a bad guy (criminal activity notwithstanding) was an interesting character too – hope we see him again. The machines and gadgets were fun to imagine too. I am looking forward to the groups trip to America – and Finley and Griff’s walk in the park there!