Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
Published Year: 2015
Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling
"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."
I've been really wanting to read this one since I discovered it. I really enjoy Cinderella retellings, well any retellings if I'm being completely honest, and this one is no exception. I've seen a lot of comparisons between this and Cinder, and honestly I just don't see it. I think it's the "inventor" portion, but really the only other thing they have in common is that they're both loosely following the Cinderella fairy tale. Mechanica and Cinder are so vastly different for me that I don't even want to compare them. So, I won't. Kthx.
Nicoletta is your typical Cinderella (or Mechanica in this case) initially. Parents were tragically taken too soon from this world, leaving her with a stepfamily that turned her into a slave. However, where Mechanica really flourishes is in the history. BC does a lovely job of word building and explaining pieces of history in a way that doesn't feel irrelevant or like a lesson. I particularly enjoyed all the Fey pieces! It could've held a more prominent position and I would've been a-okay with that. The mechanical/inventor portion of this book, I also thought was well done. I loved imagining all the automatons wandering around Nick's cellar! (Jules was my favorite character, just saying).
I also really appreciated BC's take on this. Nicoletta was not sitting on her butt waiting for a prince to save her. She was focused on surviving and then leaving her stepfamily, and I really appreciated her strong will here. However, if you're looking for the standard conclusion to the Cinderella story, you won't find it here, so beware.
My biggest issue with M, though, is the lack of a resounding umph at the end that left me feeling satisfied. I feel that there's more to this story (which there's no sequel listed fyi) and we're still building up to it. Nicoletta definitely had some ups and downs and emotional moments, but there was no defining climax. Ultimately, I was feeling disappointed when I reached the epilogue. Usually epilogues are my jam, but not this one. I was disappointed that it was over without that defining moment. The epilogue itself also just put all my feelings in a blender. Don't even get me started.
Overall, I was meh about this retelling of Cinderella. I liked the world and the characters, and appreciated the key differences from the original fairy tale. However, I think the plot could have used a little more excitement for sure.
2 out of 5 stars.