Kady Cross expertly blends a classic tale with a steampunk backdrop in The Girl in the Steel Corset. With a genre bending story, Cross brings a fully realized world to the young adult set. Cross effortlessly presents her characters and their adventure without contrived stereotypical steampunk elements, instead letting her story evolve naturally. The Girl in the Steel Corset‘s natural evolution is a mix of action and adventure, mystery and intrigue, with a beautiful twisted classic.
In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch.
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets, against the wishes of his band of misfits. And Finley thinks she might finally be a part of something, finally fit in—until a criminal mastermind known as the Machinist threatens to tear the group apart….
I don’t often read young adult novels but The Girl in the Steel Corset was one in which I was so captivated by that I forgot the protagonists age. The entire book tells the story of the daughter of Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde. Finley, the daughter in question is not an altogether new character but it is how she draws from the traditional aspects of the Jekyll/Hyde story that is most intriguing. This is taken in various aspects, and Cross did a good job of making these span both major and minor plot points. Finley is not the typical everyday girl, she plays up piety and innocence as her Jekyll side and capitalizes on her beauty, budding seduction skills and access to well made corsets as Hyde. One of the more interesting as yet minor details was how her honey blonde hair develops streaks of black. The other characters in The Girl in the Steel Corset are neither banal nor incredibly unique yet still hold their own. The only one which is somewhat stereotypical is the leading man – a rich boy who doesn’t want to ruin his family legacy and of course finds Finley incredibly enticing.
Throughout The Girl in the Steel Corset, I found myself loving the band of brothers. Instead of ordinary friends, the ensemble cast feels more like the justice league with each individual bringing their own skill to benefit the group. This dynamic only proves to help propel the story as you have the somewhat suspicious forlorn character who doesn’t like the new girl, the inventor female who struggles with her past decisions and the newer American gunslinger. Instead of tackling problems as individuals, they pool resources together, consistently finding that as a team they can overcome what they need. The steampunk superhero meld isn’t Cross’s invention but she does it well and maintains this feeling while interestingly, making her characters somewhat unaware of this team element. This lack of insight on her character’s part is one element I’d love to see how it develops.
There are so many elements of The Girl in the Steel Corset which I found to make for a compelling read. The implement of automatons as service industry workers like barkeeps and maids, the healing aspects of nano agents, and the namesake steel corset which acts as armor. Cross brings her take to elements that are standard to steampunk and gives them her twist. An all around entertaining read, The Girl in the Steel Corset is for the fan of many genres.