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Author: Betsy Cornwell
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Synopsis: 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.
Review: I'm always looking for the next great fairy tale re-imagining. I especially love when the bones of the story are the same, but the details are completely new and different. Subtle nods to the original stories also make me really happy. Mechanica was everything I was hoping for in a Cinderella retelling and then some!
Nicolette is not your average Cinderella. She does have an evil stepmother and two evil stepsisters, and her parents have both passed away. She's forced to cook and clean and only gets to eat the scraps that are left over. Like the traditional Cinderella, Nicolette cares for the Steps and rarely, if ever, complains, but dreams of a better life sometime in the future. But Nicolette is so much more than just a poor girl left to care for her stepfamily. She's intelligent, motivated, and her life changes the moment she discovers her mother's secret workshop.
I loved discovering the secrets in the workshop with Nicolette. Between the journals, the automatons, and Jules, there are so many interesting and exciting things that have been right underneath her nose the whole time. I loved the way magic was incorporated to bring things to life and to hide the secrets in the house. Even though she has to sometimes go without sleeping, Nicolette is determined to use her mother's workshop to invent something that will finally get her out from underneath her stepmother.
I think my favorite part of this book was how Nicolette changes over the course of the book. She starts to make friends and fall in love, but then things begin to change and she realizes that maybe the fairy-tale ending she dreamed of might not be for her. She uses her talents to try to make a life for herself, and things just fall into place around that. Nicolette still has to suffer pain and heartbreak, and she still has to leave the ball by midnight (although her carriage doesn't turn back into a pumpkin), but her happily ever after is reason enough to want to read this book! I especially think it would be good for young girls, to show them that not every fairy tale has to end with a prince.
If you enjoy fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, you definitely want to read Mechanica! The writing it beautiful and lyrical, the plot moves along at a great pace, and the characters are memorable and lovable. It also ends nicely, although I do have more questions that I would love to have answered in a prequel novella or something! I'd totally recommend this book, even for the younger crowd. There's not too much that's dark or gritty or scary. 4/5!