The Strange Case of Finley Jayne (Steampunk Chronicles 0.5) by Kady Cross
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Reading level: Young Adult
Finley Jayne knows she's not 'normal'. Normal girls don't lose time, or have something inside them that makes them capable of remarkably violent things. Her behavior has already cost her one job, so when she's offered the lofty position of companion to Phoebe, a debutante recently engaged to Lord Vincent, she accepts, despite having no experience. Lord Vincent is a man of science with his automatons and inventions, but Finley is suspicious of his motives where Phoebe is concerned. She will do anything to protect her new friend, but what she discovers is even more monstrous than anything she could have imagined…
-- from Goodreads.com
I am a huge fan of steampunk. It's up there on my list of favorite settings just shy of dystopians. Ms. Cross provides us with a total immersion into the steampunk genre in this novella which includes everything from corsets to steam-powered metal horses to hints at gothic horror novels such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The cast of characters is lively, if physically under-described, and the dialogue tinged with just the right amount of vocabulary and structure relevant to the time period.
I was impressed that in such a short amount of time we are introduced to Finley Jayne and get to know her pretty well. She is a girl who hides a very dark, secret side of herself. A side that comes out to protect those for whom she cares, which includes her employer, Lady Morton, Lady Morton's daughter Phoebe, who is set to marry a very ominous older man who seems to have hidden plans for his fiancee. I felt Finley was a little butch for my tastes and a little too apt to jump to mistaken knee-jerk reactions, but generally she is very likable as are the rest of the characters. Even the villain has his moment.
The beginning is a little slow but after Finley is established and the circumstances set up, the novella was packed with action. Some parts so well-described as to leave the reader feeling they were standing on the sideline while it all rushed by. Ms. Cross is excellent at descriptive writing, down to recounting Finley's modern (to the era) outfits. I could see and smell the world. Which is why it was disappointing that none of the characters is actually given a full description when we meet them. Including Finley who, on the cover of The Girl in the Steel Corset, appears to have dark hair. Half way through the novella, it is stated that her hair is honey blond. We aren't told her color of her eyes at the beginning either, only that they are like her dead father's. Later on we are told the color. We know more about what people are wearing than we do about what they look like so it was difficult to get a clear picture of the characters in mind.
It was an enjoyable read over all. I hope that we get to see more of the elusive Lord Greythorne in the forthcoming novel. I also hope that Ms. Cross will extend her creative genius to giving us a better idea of what her characters look like so we can see them as she does. Oh yes, and maybe fewer plum-colored satin dresses. I think Finley had 3 of them in this short novella! :)