Title: The Girl in the Steel Corset
Synopsis: 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. Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help-and finally be a part of something, finally fit in. But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on, even if it seems no one believes her. (Goodreads)
Review: This book started with a scene that is often found in regency romances. Maid is cornered by the lord of the house, who is on the prowl for some sexytimes. However, her reaction to his unwanted advances is definitely not something you'd find in a regency romance novel. Maybe a Bruce Lee movie, but not a RR. I loved it! One of the best opening scenes I've ever encountered. I love a book that starts with action, throwing you right into the thick of things. Things moved pretty quickly in The Girl in the Steel Corset. There were various romantic sub-plots going on, but none of them advanced much during the book (which is not a bad thing). Cross said in the afterward that she meant for it to be a "cross between The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and X-Men" which is a pretty bad-a pitch if you ask me. It definitely had that vibe, although it took a while for things to become clear. Finley seemed like an inconsistent character until explanations were given and the whole reason for their "abilities" was explained, but it was crammed in between adventures. I really liked this book and read it quickly, but there were some flaws. Things just seemed a bit jumbled and imprecise. Can I elaborate on that? No, I don't think I can. I'm just left with a vague feeling that things could have been a bit cleaner.
My main complaint is that we didn't see more of Jack Dandy. Really, let's just ditch this storyline and make it all about Jack Dandy, kind of like the Jack of Fables spin off of the Fables comics. He was my favorite character by far. The whole cast of characters was pretty awesome. I could've killed Sam a few times, but they were very interesting. Without giving anything away, I would like to say that it was a bit The Great Mouse Detective. I saw it coming a mile away and was a bit annoyed by how long it took them to figure it out. I suppose I should go easy on them, though. They had probable never seen the Disney classic. The Girl in the Steel Corset was a very good book, an excellent example of Steampunk YA, and a very fun read. It had its flaws, but it's definitely worth picking up.
Notes: Kady Cross has written a short story prequel to The Girl in the Steel Corset, which is about how Finley lost her second job. It is called "The Strange Case of Finley Jane" and right now it is free in ebook format on Amazon. This would be a great way to try out the author if you're on the fence (although I really feel like you should experience that amazing first scene!).