Author: Betsy Cornwell
Publication: Clarion Books (August 25, 2015)
Description: 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 pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story which is a riff on the Cinderella story. Nicolette is the daughter of a famous inventor mother and an entrepreneur father. She seems benignly neglected by both of them. She wants to be an inventor like her mother who is her teacher when she can work her daughter in around inventing. She gets her nurturing from the housekeeper who is half-Fey.
After the death of the queen from an illness carried home from where the Fey live, the king turns against all things fey. The magic that Nicolette's mother infused in her inventions has made them terribly unpopular. The issue of the fey has also caused Nicolette's parents to argue. When Nicolette's mother catches the same disease that killed the Queen, her father refuses to deal illegally to get the fey remedy that could cure her. After her mother's death, her father remarries a woman who share his anti-Fey sentiments. She has two daughters and Nicolette initially hopes that they will become her sisters. But after her father's death, things change drastically for Nicolette. At age 10, Nicolette becomes a servant for the Steps.
Luckily, she still has some of their former housekeepers magical gadgets to help her. But she spends a lonely six years as a despised servant before she receives a letter from her mother on her sixteenth birthday. The letter gives her access to her mother's hidden workshop which opens new opportunities for Nicolette. She is befriended by a small clockwork horse and a bunch of clockwork insects. She determines to invent things to sell so that she can someday have a place and workshop of her own.
On her first trip to the market, she meets Caro and Fin who befriend her. They are her first friends. But when she returns home, her stepmother has discovered her workshop and has destroyed it. Most hurtful is that she destroyed the clockwork horse. However, her friends are still there to encourage her and her stepmother didn't find the hidden workshop.
Nicolette - now renamed Mechanica by her spiteful stepsisters - is determined to win recognition for her inventions at an up-coming Exposition and Ball. The stepsisters are determined to use the Ball as an opportunity to meet the hidden Heir Christopher and to catch his attention so that he will make one of them his wife. Mechanica doesn't care about catching a prince; she wants to build her own life on her own merits.
What I especially liked about this story was that Mechanica was someone who was determined to act and make her own happy ending. I liked the worldbuilding and the combination of magic and invention.
Honestly, I agreed with Fitz. What use would it do any girl to marry the Heir if it meant she'd be stuck in hiding with him for who knew how long? The palace was a lovely prison, certainly, but never to be able to leave . . . It was all too familiar a situation to me. I had just started to imagine a kind of life for myself: making a living of my own, having a home and a workshop -- even buying back Lampton from the Steps, if I was extraordinarily lucky. Maybe ever traveling, once I had my business established. Nothing could make me give up the freedom I longed for, not even the heir to a kingdom. Why marry someone if that marriage is only another trap?I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.