Finley Jayne – She’s different. She’s got super strength, she can jump from a two-story window and lang like she merely jumped 6 inches, and she has a “dark side” that takes over. She remains conscious when that happens, but she feels different and does things she wouldn’t normally have the strength or courage to do otherwise.
Phoebe Morton – A young lady, Finley’s age, who is set to marry Lord Vincent but doesn’t want to. She looks remarkably like Lord Vncent’s dead first wife.
Lady Morton – Hires Jane to be Phoebe’s companion. She likes that Finley was sacked for defending a child and is worried that Lord Vincent wants something dark and nefarious with her daughter Phoebe.
Lord Vincent – Older man and inventor of many of the automatons in the book. He is creepy and seems to want to marry Phoebe for unknown reasons.
Main Premise: This is really our introduction to Finley. There is something different about her, but she really doesn’t understand what. She is stronger then she should be and we don’t know what else she can really do. She gets sacked in the beginning because she punched a governess, in defense of a child. She is hired immediately by Lady Morton for that very same reason. Finely is smart enough to recognize that there is more to the reason for being hired then it would seem. Slowly (although how slow can it really be, the entire story is a mere 80 pages since it’s a prequel), we learn that Lady Morton is leery of the match between her daughter and Lord Vincent. And Lord Vincent is sort of a mad scientist. The gift to Finley from Silas (Finley’s step-father) in the beginning of a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a not-so-subtle hint at what would be coming. Lord Vincent hopes to transplant his deceased wife’s brain into Phoebe. Needless to say, Finely spoils this. And in the end, Lord Vincent kills himself. Finely resigns her post and is referred to a friend of Lady Morton’s for her next employment – which is where I assume she will be for the Steel Corset installment of this series.
Other important things to remember for later: Well, we hear of (and sort of see) the Duke of Greythorne a few times. I would expect we should see something of him (otherwise, why the set-up?). He is apparently very rich, very handsome, and not exactly a social butterfly, preferring to stay at home and not socialize. But, all the young ladies are after him. Finely admits she doesn’t really know all of what she can do or why she is different (she thinks of things as if she has another self and she has darkness in her). The Lady August-Raynes is looking for a lady’s maid for her daughter. And there is a son with a “reputation as a rogue” she’s warned about. Finely doesn’t expect to see much of Phoebe again. And, it may not be important at all, but Phoebe was in love with some boy named Robert.
Review: For a prequel, I think we get a decent introduction to what I assume will be our main character/heroine throughout the series. We don’t get a tremendous amount of background, but we do know she is different from other girls her age. I liked Phoebe and Lady Morton as characters. I thought they added to the story well.
There was enough potential in this story, however, to have been more then just a prequel. And, as a result, what could have been a novel unto itself felt shorthanded and abbreviated. The author didn’t have the luxury of being subtle and as a result, the foreshadowing might as well have had big neon signs attached that screamed “pay attention, here’s the big fat hint as to what is really going on and what will happen!!!!!!!” Yes, that statement needs all those exclamation points – because that’s what it felt like. The whole “no… it couldn’t have been a human brain” was like being hit on the head with an anvil. And it doesn’t take a genius to guess right then and there – about halfway through the story – to see what Lord Vincent intended. Given the luxury of a higher page count, it might not have beenso easy to see what was coming, the author might have been able to hid the hints better.
And, while I know this was a preview, I am left with the hope that we learn more about Finely. Again, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she’s likely at least part automaton but I hope we start to get some of the why/how.
This seems like it was the introduction to an interesting series. And I must say, that while I felt compelled to compare a little to Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel given the steampunk thing, it really felt like a very different world and, I think despite the less then subtle foreshadowing, the writing was a little better here then Ms. Clare’s has become (The Mortal Instruments/Clockwork writing has to me, become a little stale and repetitive). I hope Steel Corset takes advantage of a higher page count because Finley seems to have a lot of promise.