More Lovely Steampunk Books for the Action Enthusiast: Book Review of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

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Still feeling the steampunk vibe, and even more so when I caught a look at this cover - isn't it fabulous?  Welcome to The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross.

The author describes the book as a cross between X-Men and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and this action-packed yarn lives up to that billing, holding appeal to both male and female readers (although with this cover, the male reader might be a tough sell).

Our protagonist, Finley Jayne, comes from a home made up of her seamstress mother and caring bookseller stepfather.  Not wanting to be a financial burden to her family she looks for domestic work, which usually doesn't last long, because Finley has a secret.

She feels that she is two people, the first the good girl who wants to work hard (she is amazingly strong with tremendous endurance) and the second, a girl for whom anger or rage can unleash a dark side capable of doing serious damage, and it does.

When Lord Felix, the son of her employer and a recent addition to the pierced aristocrats emulating underworld king, Jack Dandy, tries to rape and beat her, Finley not only stops him but almost kills him in the process.  Fleeing the scene she literally runs right into Griffin King, the young Duke of Greystone, who himself harbors a secret (one inherited from his parents who may have provided a little inspiration for another steampunk classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne).  Griffin has surrounded himself with an eclectic group of people blessed with some particular strength or genius and he realizes more quickly than Finley what is happening to her and how to help.  The fact that she is strikingly pretty and intelligent also doesn't factor into his helping her, although it might have something to do with the feelings stirring inside him.  It doesn't do it justice, but you might want to take a look at the book trailer.

I greatly enjoyed this book and applaud the author's deft but not hokey nod to the classic work The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (a story that features more prominently as the plot progresses).  As Finley becomes part of the team Griffin has assembled, not only does she find a way to use and integrate the dark part of herself to fight the evil among them, but she finds friendship and acceptance for who she is, a friendship most welcome as she discovers her family and Griffin's to have been allies for longer than either can imagine.

This novel is also deliciously steampunk, more so than a lot of other books which try and live up to the moniker.  Automatons and fascinating energy sources abound and diminutive, Irish Emily is a veritable genius with them (she is the one who makes Finley's famed corset), much to the dismay of another member of the team, the strong and conflicted Sam.  Young American cowboy Jasper seems to have a mysterious past but brings his own set of skills into play, and the antihero of Jack Dandy forms an intriguing love-triangle as his interest in Finley is all too clear, inspiring Griffin's jealousy.

Kady Cross was kind enough to give us her .5 novella, The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, available as a free download.  This prequel tells us the growing origin of Finley's conflicted self (and her desire to help and goodness) through the story of her previous domestic position prior to her story beginning in
The Girl in the Steel Corset.

Finley has disastrously left her previous domestic position after punching the lights out of a cruel governess and finds herself back at home with no reference.  She is shocked when an aristocratic lady lands on her doorstep wanting to hire Finley as a companion to her daughter, based on hearing that previous account of her work.  The Lady's daughter is recently engaged to a much older man and there are suspicions as to his intentions.  Very well-grounded suspicions.

This time Mary Shelley's Frankenstein provides the comparison and is done in as equally as deft a manner as the previous book.  The reader is left with a better impression of what Finley was like prior to her dark side asserting itself even more and the near-misses of her possible encounters with Griffin are a nice touch.  A really well done novella!

It's nice to note that author Kady Cross is actually a pseudonym for successful romance novelist Kathryn Smith, although librarians can be assured that the content of this novel (soon to be series since it's entitled The Steampunk Chronicles) is totally appropriate for even younger YA audiences but has enough punch and depth to entertain adult steampunk readers.  I was bound to enjoy the writing of someone who lists Richelle Mead, Melissa Marr and Meg Cabot as some of her favorite YA writers, and I am really appreciative that Cross/Smith has done a great job collating terrific steampunk links on her Kady Cross website.

I've added her to my Google Reader as I think the incarnation of Kady Cross will be a good author to watch.  I know I can't wait for the next book in the series, particularly given the intriguing situation she set up at the end of The Girl in a Steel Corset!


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