Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)'s Reviews > The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross
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I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of of the hated "showing not telling" way of expanding the history. Though my experience with round two of this "straynge band of mysfits" was sliiiightly better than with its predecessor The Girl in the Steel Corset, I want to express this loudly and clearly: This series is not a good example of steampunk. Also, why I am just griping: whyyy the random, painful bastardization of "strange band of misfits"? (SPOILER for first in the series) If you've read book one, you know that "Jayne" is not in fact Finley's surname, nor does she go by it at all during this novel... So enough with the strange application of "y"'s. A lot of my issues from the first are present oce again here: Finley herself continued to be a bit of a disappointment and an erratic and brainless main character, continuing my lack of enthusiasm for her, most of the background characters remain flat and one-dimensional, and the villain/twist is telegraphed very early on in the book. This review might get a little long and spoilery, or even a lot, so keep your eyes elsewhere unless that's what you want.

Things I Am Vastly Tired Of Reading About In The Steampunk Chronicles:

Emily's "ropey" hair (what does that even mean? Dreadlocks? Braids?)

any kind of overwrought love triangle (Jasper-Mei-Emily or Jasper-Mei-Wildcat - either/or - no, thank you)

Sam surliness/moodiness (less of an obvious page-to-page problem than in book one, but still not redeemable)

How Finley's drawn to the darker side of life (it's been two books, countless examples [Felix, Jack, fights, Dalton] and something like 800+ pages - we get it already!)

Finley's worries about being worthy for a Duke (I'm pretty sure the boy that can be ~one~ with the Aether doesn't care about society, given that he already lives unsupervised with two young women of not exactly sterling repuation)

Griffin's "I-trust-you-now-I-don't" wishywashy bullshit with Finley + worrying over whether he is exciting enough for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ian girl he loves likes (Have some self-respect, dude.)

Anything involving the word Organites (including Darwin and this books misuse of his theories on evolution)

I think some of the problem with this series is that it wants to be X-Men but with a steampunk background. On the surface it seems to sort-of/maybe fit the mold cast by Charles Xavier and his motley crew: there are a bunch of mutated kids with special abilities like super strength and speed and healing, the ability to talk to machines, dual natures, etc. that all live together in a big mansion, owned by a family with a lot of money. But such a comparison starts to fall apart upon closer inspection - most aspects of this historical steampunk young-adult novel are rather run-of-the-mill and cliched, easy to find in slightly different forms all over the paranormal teen novel market.

Though this takes place merely a fortnight after the events of the first book, a lot of the superficial details have changed, including the cast of characters. At first I was, well, not really excited, but less apprehensive to start this based on the cover. For one - it's not a generic, whitewashed cover. Mei is an important part of the plot - in fact the whole book falls apart without her participation - and I'm really happy that an Asian young woman was selected to show and advertise for ya novel. But there's always a but, and here is no exception. Mei is a new character and her race makes her stand out in this largely English cast, but I'm bothered and disappointed that the author chose to name her "Mei Xing." As in the word "Amazing" - how awkward and shallow of a choice! But that was just the first of many character issues I found here. I also wish there had been more subtlety with her role in the plot (subtlety from the woman who named her main male character/love interest Griffin King? My bad) - while I wasn't sure at first, it's rapidly apparent what's going on. A lot little more authorial sleight of hand would make the unraveling of the plot and characters much more engrossing to read.

Main character Finley has been a problem from me since early on in the first chapter of The Girl in the Steel Corset and sadly, she is no better here in round two. Her previous problem of acting brainlessly and without thought for repercussion shows up early and often but good ol' Fin now drags her friend Emily into her messes. I know that the big 'deal' with Finley is constantly-battling dual nature, but the author's depiction of her lead's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type tendencies is really over the top here. She's supposed to dance on the fence of morality and legality, but considering backhanding another girl for a look? That's extreme and just makes Finley look like a judgmental and unhinged maniac - not a fiercely protective and loving friend, which is I think what the author was trying to impart? I may have missed the finer point of it because Finley was devolving into an autocratic violence machine.

Once again I felt there was a superfluous amount of POVs used here - just like I thought for the first book; Finley's alone would be sufficient if grating on my nerves. So much of the text feels like repetition - even if it's Finley, or Jasper or Griff, they all think along the same lines. I mean, Jasper explains and re-explains his plans to hide a device multiple times. It gets old, quick. It must be said that Jasper's voice is the most identifiable, but that's largely because of his affected and annoying accent. (Also? Being from San Francisco and wearing a ten-gallon hat does not make one a cowboy. OK?) The lack of Jack Dandy is lamentable, but at least the love triangle tension and drama was slightly scaled down as well. The charming but fake Cockney crime lord is one of my few liked characters, even if Griff is slowly climbing his way up in my estimations to give him a run.

In the end, I'd have to say that The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is ultimately just as energy-sapping and time-consuming as its immediate predecessor. It's also just as frustrating to slough through for over 400 pages. It feels amateurish, characters haven't grown or evolved, there's too much focus on fripperies instead of potential awesomeness, and infodumps and love triangles run rampant. There seems to be some love-connection type resolution for Finley and Griff (until she gets back to London and Jack...) as well as the main storyline. With a rushed ending that was over veeery quickly, I can't say I'm sad to say "goodbye!" to this series - for forever - even if there's a book three.
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Reading Progress

04/11/2012 page 17
4.0% "I still hate Sam."
04/12/2012 page 45
11.0% "I only have to read about 385 pages to finish this today. I can do totally it!" 4 comments
04/13/2012 page 63
15.0% "Today! Today is definitely the day I finish this and move on."
04/13/2012 page 132
32.0% "So far, there's not a lot of difference or improvement from the first one. Everyone acts the same (brainlessly), I hate Sam and this is the most unsubtle of books when it comes to characterization." 2 comments
04/13/2012 page 178
43.0% "I'm really bothered and disappointed that the author gave the Asian character the name is "Mei Xing". Amazing? Really? Ugh. Also, I don't trust her."
04/13/2012 page 206
50.0% "I know Finley is supposed to dance on the fence of morality, but considering backhanding Mei simply because she doesn't like how the girl is looking at her is extreme." 2 comments
04/13/2012 page 303
73.0% "Things I am tired of reading about in the two books of The Steampunk Chronicles:

1. Emily's "ropey" hair
2. Sam's surliness/moodiness
3. How Finley is "drawn to the darker side" of life
4. Finley's worrying over her worthiness for a duke; Griff worrying that he's exciting enough for the conflicted and flat main character
5. anything involving the word "organites"
04/13/2012 page 396
95.0% "I don't know about you, but I only really like magic wands in Harry Potter novels... not steampunk ones."

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Blythe (new)

Blythe Aw, man! Just got this on NetGalley!

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) I hope you have a better time with it than I did! It's very similar to the first in tone/voice so if you liked that, you'll probably like this one.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) That's a great point, Maeve! I didn't know that, but it just makes her use of the character _ and her name that
_much worse!

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) I think Cross has the distinction of being the most unsubtle writer I've ever had the misfortune to read. I had to give up on her books after this one, for my own sanity ;)

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Oh, god - the "ropey" hair! I hated that descriptor! WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN. Braids? Dreadlocks? Who the fuck knows because the author sure doesn't care to foster understanding!

I agree - she gets the idea and then executes it as lamely as humanly possible.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Hahahah! That's what I am totally going to picture for Emily now X-D

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Oh the Lovely Bones, another mess of a good idea!
Your brain seems like a very fun, imaginative place to be :D

message 8: by Sobia (new) - added it

Sobia Emily's "ropey" hair (what does that even mean? Dreadlocks? Braids?)

thank you! that bugged the all hell out of me in the first book! So much so, that as soon as I hit the first mention of them in this one, i stopped reading! nice to know, I'm not missing anything!

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Sobia wrote: "Emily's "ropey" hair (what does that even mean? Dreadlocks? Braids?)

thank you! that bugged the all hell out of me in the first book! So much so, that as soon as I hit the first mention of them in..."

Haha, you're smart and didn't suffer! You really are missing nothing. This book, this series!, is such a bloated mess.

message 10: by Kylie (new)

Kylie Méadhbh wrote: "Ugh. Just thinking about Mei's name makes me shudder. Could the author have possibly been any more obvious!?!?!?"

Mei means 'beautiful' in Mandarin Chinese, and I personally think it's a pretty name. It's quite common a name too. Xing could mean star, so her name translates into 'beautiful star'. Rather a nice name I think.

As for the last name before the first, they are in America, so it would make sense to pronounce the name the American way (first name before last) rather than the Chinese way (last name before first). :)

Rebecca C Maybe I'm more forgiving than the average but with a little checking out: King is a family name in England, and Griffin picked up popularity, though it came from Wales originally.
Mei is a common first name in Chine and Xing is a surname. Many North Americans that I know of would pronounce it "Zing" even though it linguisitically should be pronounced "Shing" so it never grated on me the same way. Also, Finley makes the observsation along the lines of "Seriously? Mei Xing? How more ridiculous could this girl get?"

Regarding Finley's reckless impulses..that felt very normal in the scope of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Hyde had no qualms about doing violent or grotesque fact, didn't think much of it at all. So when Finley thinks of backhanding Mei but grits her teeth and doesn't, it seemed to strike the perfect chord to balance Hyde's easy violence with Jekyll's reasoned morality, separate from Jasper entirely. For me, deciding not to set against Mei in complete intuitive hatred spoke of her loyalty to Jasper and his inclinations.

She is repetitive, I will certainly agree. But even with the slow parts I finished the book in several hours (4 or so). It felt like a tasty steampunkesque period-piece snack. Leading you on the path it wants you to take so little twists could make you think and delight - Finley's reckless but sometimes unpredictable behaviour, the role of Whip Kirby, the fact that the collar was fake..I thought Mei's performance was believable and Wildcat is a wildcard. It felt, through a lot of this story, that it was a setup for the books to come. It has it's own (loosely used) believable plot, but it seemed more about what will become of Griffin with his Aetheric villain and Finley deciding what kind of danger she likes to take part in than the obvious plot that was taking place.

Ropey is when your hair bunches into larger groupings instead of handing softly - it's what happens when you envision curly hair, but when one's hair is actually straight. My hair is ropey a day or two after washing, and that is usually because I'm so caught up in a novel or an idea and research that I can't be bothered. It's kind of a neat look and makes putting your hair up interesting, as it is already divided into it's own natural sections. It happens when straight hair gets longer and isn't silken (ie freshly washed)

And just some curious side points:
If you went by one name your entirely life and then suddenly found out it was different, would you just switch it easily and without thought and not mind at all? (Especially in a time when a surname means a lot, and there might be danger in the name you find out is your real surname)

Haven't you met someone who is characteristically ______ all the time and you want to smack them sometimes to snap out of it but really you know there must be a reason for their temperament? I get that vibe with Sam. It's annoying, it's unending..but I think it stems even deeper than simply being turned into a "mandroid" (<-term made me lol)

Lastly, have you never felt doubts about a crush? Especially if you think it won't work out in the end, haven't you ever tried to convince yourself it wasn't right for x, y and z reasons (even knowing somewhat that they could be easily refuted)?

It's an easy times slow (or annoying due to repetition, but paragraphs can be easily skimmed or skipped). I took it simply as a fun little escape from reality, where clockwork collars, organic compounds that enhance abilities and respectable, kind, attractive and interesting boys might actually exist (lol).

[[I really liked how 'respectable' the characters are, caring about honour and not devolving to sex every time they have an intriguing thought]]

Rebecca C Bah. In the ropey paragraph, handing should reading hanging*
And the gap in the paragraph that follows further down should be something akin to " *blank* " as in, fill in the blank with your own version of an irritating behaviour.

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