Okay, so I picked up this book on a whim, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was turning pages. It was a fascinating world to dive into.
The story is set in an alternate, 19th century United States of America, where British rule is still established, and society is run by Magisters. They hold all of the power and make sure that common people are aware of it. They delude the common people into believing that their survival is dependent on magic, and that's where the Rebel Mechanics come in.
The Rebel Mechanics are a group of rag-tag, steam-punk, university students with a knack for engineering. Their mission throughout the entirety of the novel is to prove that the common people have machines, and that machines are far more powerful than any magic.
While the world was fascinating, I had a lot of problems with this novel. It was enjoyable if you just take it for what it is. But I like my fantasy books to be high concept with great characters. The world has to be laid out and built in a way that makes it believable, not just enjoyable. The thing I want to start out with, though, is that there's no character depth.
The most important part of any novel, at least in my opinion, are the characters. In this novel, we're greeted with an incredibly intriguing cast of characters who deserved far more than what they were handed. On one side, there's the rebels:
Alec - the lead rebel engineer, all for the cause and adorable as all hell.
Nat - a rebel newspaper boy with a comedic streak.
Colin - a snarky engineer.
Lizzie - a rebel reporter who is a fast friend to Verity, our main character.
Then there's the Magisters, or "magpies" as they're fondly referred to as by the rebels.
Olive: the most adorable six year old in recent memory
Rollo: the middle child of three, who is in love with machinery and science.
Flora: a girl who's shallow, but has proven herself to be clever.
Lord Henry: Flora, Rollo, and Olive's guardian, Verity's employer, and the lead of another rebel group, the Masked Bandits.
The qualities above are the only ones I could find to list. The only one with any depth is Lord Henry, and his story is so predictable it's actually painful.
The Governor is the most villainous character, and it's because he's the Governor during British rule. All of the rest of the characters seemed to innocent to be involved in a plot like this. If she had just developed them a bit more, added in more details, I would have easily been in love with this book.
There aren't many climactic scenes, either. The ones that are supposed to be are ruined by their predictability, or they just weren't written to be dramatic enough. The stakes are raised when Verity finds out that the Rebel Mechanics are manipulating her and the public perception to gain support, but none of that seems dramatic enough to get her to leave her friends.
The world building was a bit lax. We're just dropped into it, and there's hardly any backstory in the beginning of the novel. It's spit out somewhere around a quarter of the way in, and I don't think that's a smart move. Even a prologue would have helped. I absolutely understand the world she was going for, and I think it had the potential to be incredibly layered and complex, had she taken the time to make it so.
With all of that being said, even with it being an enjoyable and quick read, I'm not planning on buying the sequel.