Book Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell is a twist on Cinderella for mature middle grade readers, young adults, and adults. Nicolette learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. On her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Mechanica is a retelling of Cinderella with a touch or steampunk and extra fairy magic. Nicolette has lost her mother, who made magical, mechanical creations for both work and beauty. After her death Nick's father remarried and it was not long before she lost him as well. Then she was left to care for the house and the Steps herself, thankfully she had access to the machines and magic left behind to make things manageable. When she gains access to her mother's workshop on her sixteenth birthday everything gets better. She just might have found a way to escape and buy her family's home from the Steps- she can create and sell her own works. In the process she learns more about herself, her mother, and the larger world. Making friends and facing danger Nick just might have found a fairy tale ending, but is it what she really wants? I really enjoyed the dynamic of Nick and the friends she makes- although I did shh the big twist about them coming a mile away. What I found more interesting was that even though her new family is not exactly nice to Nick, there are moments when we can see each of the members as more than their cruel side. We are given glimpses that make them human and multifaceted despite their inhumane treatment of others. I also liked Nick's slow growth in understanding and worry about the work and magic she has involved herself in, and that through out everything being honest and true to herself prevails over some choices that would have made her life much nicer, at least on the surface.

Mechanica is more than a simple retelling of Cinderella. It is a coming of age story, a story about prejudice, a story about hard work, a story about determination, and a story about hope. While I could have done without a small bit of the story (love *cough* triangle) it is such a small portion of the larger story that it was easy enough to ignore. On top of it- the cover is awesome!

Some people are complaining that it sounds like a knock off of Cinder, but since I have not read Cinder (and the author sold this manuscript before Cinder was published) I cannot speak to that.
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