I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
Series: Rebel Mechanics #1
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on July 14th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Steampunk
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.
It’s very hard for me to see a cover and premise that hint at steampunk and then pass that book up – and so it was that Rebel Mechanics entered my eager hands. This alternate history is unique, interesting, and incredibly entertaining – and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.
Rebel Mechanics tells the story of an alternate history where the US never gained independence. This happened because of the existence of magic in the ruling upperclass of Britain – they use their power to dominate the colonies and ruin any chance at industrial revolution. Without machines, the Americans don’t stand a chance at defeating the British. How awesome is that concept? Super cool. I love the idea of alternate history, and here, while it involves magic, it really feels realistic. If magic existed, I imagine the classes would be divided as they are, and that there would be such a massive abuse of power. That in turn causes unrest, and so a rebellion will form.
I also love the steampunk aspects. The rebel underground is working in secret to invent as many useful machines as possible to show the world that they can survive without magic and that together with the machines they can defeat the British. Verity, the main character, sees these inventions with a kind of childlike fascination, and the book is just loaded with so much imagination that it becomes a really vivid, engaging read. The story takes place in Victorian times, and Verity is a governess in a British noble household, so obviously there’s also pretty clothes, balls, and social calls. I will never get enough of Victorian-era stories. Or steampunk stories. Nope.
Verity starts off in New York City working as a governess, but she quickly gets caught up in the rebel movement. She’s not the most outspoken or memorable character ever, but there is a very realistic aspect to her. She’s had a pretty well-off life with her parents, but due to a secret around her identity, she’s had to leave it all behind. She’s never really known much about the tensions between the British and the rebels, but when she sees injustice in action, she can’t let herself just stand by and do nothing. She’s not a fighter, but she finds other ways to help the movement as a spy. She may still be a little naive, but she’s new to this world and learning as she goes, which makes her pretty endearing. She’s also a book lover and an amateur journalist – so as a lover of words she’s all right in my book.
I think the thing that most held me back from falling head over heels in love with this book is the romance. Verity and Alec seem to fall into an almost-instalove after he saves her from being hit by a car. I can be more forgiving about instalove in historical fiction, because I don’t believe it’s wholly unrealistic for the time period – but I absolutely did not ship the two of them together. Alec is supposed to be this super charming, brave rebel guy, but I didn’t really trust him and I hardly swooned for him. In that sense it’s almost lucky that towards the end of the book, a love triangle kind of develops – and I like the other guy so much more. Seriously, he is swoonworthy and his connection with Verity is more bantery and based on mutual respect and admiration, so I can see myself getting on that ship ASAP. (All the hand holding — GAH.) I just wish Verity hadn’t spent so much of the book mooning over Alec. Forget that dude. Seriously.
The end of Rebel Mechanics was action-packed and full of magic, deception, and twisty turny shenanigans – finally I was fully engaged in the story. There’s still some work to be done: I want a little more development on the magic system and I’m really curious to see more background on the government and the rebellion, but I fully trust that the next book will work on that. The ending here leaves so much potential for the series that I’m absolutely very much excited about it. (But mostly I want those swoooooons.)