I can say without reservation or qualification that Mechanica is an absolute dream, the spiritual successor to Ella Enchanted that we've allRead more
I can say without reservation or qualification that Mechanica is an absolute dream, the spiritual successor to Ella Enchanted that we've all been waiting for. You'll see it sardonically compared to Cinder on Goodreads. Yes, both are Cinderella retellings. Yes, both young women are skilled with machines. The similarities end there, except that they're both damn good books. Mechanica is the story of Nicolette, a lonely girl oppressed by her stepmother's cruelty and her kingdom's embargo on all things magical. One day, a lost letter leads her to her mother's workshop, where she made her famous mechanical wonders before dying of a magic-borne disease. Her love of machinery rekindled, Nicolette soon makes a secret name for herself by inventing clever machines and beautiful baubles. Her inventions could buy her freedom--but in the way are her vicious stepsiblings and a handsome prince she never anticipated. Written in a gorgeous storyteller's prose, Mechanica is a tale of hope, self-reliance, and friendship that at once applauds, modernizes, and subverts the cherished tale of Cinderella.
it's a faithful, yet innovative cinderella retelling Like Ella Enchanted (to which I'll try not to compare it too often), Mechanica keeps the bones of the Cinderella story intact. You have a girl reduced to a servant in her own house by a cruel stepmother and stepsisters. You have a handsome prince who finds himself besotted with our lovely heroine. You have a bit of magic, a great deal of finery, and a midnight ball. I could almost see Cornwell smiling to herself when I read some of her cheeky references: mechanical insect helpers instead of birds, a coal-powered horse-drawn carriage, and of course hand-blown glass slippers. Even Nicolette's name recalls the story's French origins. It has all the trappings of a fairy tale that conjure that magical, nostalgic quality for the reader.
embedded in a unique fantasy. It's the perfect backdrop to spin a lovingly altered tale. In this world, magic is known but feared. Fairy tricks were once prized, but their power began to scare the human rulers. An epidemic of a magical disease prompted a final embargo on magic. Nicolette's mother, who once used magic to animate her clever mechanical creatures, died of the disease when her magic-loathing husband refused to deliver the magical cure. The tension between humans and magic is ever-present, creating a more worldly drama than your average Cinderella. It also creates the perfect situation for Nicolette: with magic banned, the crown hopes to hold an exhibition of human engineering to prove that it does not rely on magic. The winner will receive a royal commission, one that could free Nicolette from her stepmonsters forever.
charmingly written and tightly plotted, Nicolette's journey is giddy and delightful. Cornwell has a mastery of language that really shows her MFA roots. It's pretty without being pretentious. It evokes the antiquated style of a Grimm's fairy tale and borrows some olden turns of phrase, but is much richer in description and more evocative than Jacob or Will ever were. And while her stepcharacters are a little type-y, the rest feel perfectly real. Particularly Nicolette. She's clever, lively, and spirited, impossible not to love but certainly not saccharine. She's also wicked smart. She devises a system to do her chores using her mother's remaining mechanical creatures, befriends a tiny metal horse called Jules who is ethereally smart and ridiculously adorable, and begins selling her inventions at market. Oh, how I want my own Jules!
it celebrates love and friendship At market, Nicolette meets Caro, a girl who loves too fiercely and quickly (and is easy for a reader to love), and Finn, a swoony boy driven by wild passions. As they help Nicolette to work on her projects secretly, the three of them form a friendship built on mutual care, respect, and understanding. Funny how that works, huh? At this point, you probably think you know what happens. You'll be right about some things. Nicolette develops an affection for Finn, whose snarky adorable banter seems to suggest an equal affection. There is a ball, which Nicolette attends against her stepmother's wishes, where Nicolette captures the eye of a prince.
while also lauding independence. But to tell you how clever the story is would be spoiling it. What I can say is that Cornwell handles the fairy tale tropes so innovatively. She builds up your expectations in one direction, only to dash them and provide another avenue, only to surprise you yet again. She gives Nicolette some sense, too. Her concern for Caro is just as strong as her love for Finn, and she even hesitates to call it "love"--because she knows that she doesn't know him well and refuses to let him distract her from her dreams. The thread through the story is cooperation, not codependency. In the end, Cornwell explores the nature of love, friendship, and their intersection, and provides a happy ending that doesn't depend on fairy godmothers.
in a sentence
Mechanica is a beautifully written fairy tale that mixes the classic and modern into one romantic, charming story of perseverance and self-discovery. ...more