{Review Redux} MECHANICA by Betsy Cornwell


O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    TAKE THE KEY from behind your grandmother's portrait. I am certain your father still keeps it in the fower--no one will have touched it in years. I hope. But you, darling, will be able to find the key.
(Page 1, US ARC edition)

This review was first posted at A Backwards Story on August 20, 2015.

In case you missed it... 
we previously interviewed Betsy Cornwell MECHANICA secrets!!!


"I had rescued myself entirely."
~Nicolette, MECHANICA


Since the sequel to MECHANICA by Betsy Cornwell, VENTURESS, just came out last week--and I'm SUPER excited to read it (It's SO PRETTY, you guys!!! Check out these awesome endpapers I posted on Instagram!), I figured I'd re-post my review of MECHANICA for anyone who has't heard of the title before:

Lately, there's a new trend happening, and it's happening in fairy tales. It's the theme of GIRL POWER. WHO SAYS girls can't tinker or fix things or be great at wielding tools? WHO SAYS a boy always has to come around and save a girl? WHO SAYS traditions aren't made to be broken? If you want a book with a smart girl who defies the label society has tried to pin on her and paves her own path, MECHANICA is a book for you, fairy tale or not. It reminds me of other recent fairy tale retellings that have introduced these components that I've reviewed, from the fantastic picture book INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA by Deborah Underwood, to YA novels CINDER by Marissa Meyer and STITCHING SNOW by R.C. Lewis. (Ironically, three of these books are Cinderella-themed, but they're all different from one another. Also ironically, all three of the other titles take place in a sci-fi intergalactic setting and MECHANICA does not, choosing to go a steampunk route instead.)

Nicolette Lampton is unlike any other female her age. Rather than be sent to finishing school, her mother decides to finish her in her own way. Nicolette learns to repair mechanical creatures and invent ways to make work easier. When her mother dies, Nicolette's father remarries, than passes away soon after. Nicolette is left as the sole live-in help in her own house. When she discovers her mother's long-abandoned workshop on her sixteenth birthday, she dives into her upbringing and feels closer to her mother than ever. She finally has a way to make it on her own and leave the Steps behind...but only if they don't discover the secrets she's been keeping!

MECHANICA is fresh and different. While it started off slowly, the true charm came from Nicolette herself, especially once she started growing more confident in herself. I really liked the way Nicolette was so capable and willing to do whatever it takes to make it on her own. She finds great friends in Finn and Caro when she goes to sell her wares at the Market, and shows gumption and courage when she decides to enter the First Annual Royal Exposition of Art and Science, determined to show off her abilities and find a patron to help shape her future. I really liked the way Betsy Cornwell layered secondary characters into the story and gave them new roles to play that changed the dynamics of the traditional Cinderella tale and turned it into something original. (Plus, it totally makes me want to see someone like Tim Burton turn it into a best-selling stop-animation movie because it would work so well! Fairy tales + Steampunk + Stop Motion + Great Message? YES PLEASE!!!) 

I was also intrigued by the way the story ended, and while MECHANICA is definitely a stand-alone, I really want another book that continues Nicolette's story. It doesn't feel complete, and there's still an ominous tint to the air. Plus, I want to see where life takes her next! I really hope a sequel or a companion novel is in the works!! (2017 note: And now we have VENTURESS! My wishes have been answered!!!)


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C O N T E N T R A T I N G S

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( kissing )
Language: --
Violence: PG ( a character gets slapped )
Other: --
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C O V E R   D E S I G N:

So pretty!!! 

I love this cover. it's illustrated and just...PRETTY!!!

It does look a little like The Princess and the Frog, so I kept getting confused about what the story would be about even though I KNEW it was Cinderella, but either way, I knew it was a fairy tale!!!

The only thing I DON'T like is the addition of the spiders creeping in the dark, though they're supposed to be friendly. Just...eep!!!

I especially love the mechanisms making up the title font and the gear wheel in the glass slipper.

This is Cinderella, but it's also NOT. It's something fresh and new and different, and the cover reflects that so well!
  ~*~
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: MECHANICA
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Received: For Review


SUMMARY:

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. 

But 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—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—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. 

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.


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