Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
Published July 14th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children’s young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret. (Goodreads)
The story begins with bandits robbing a train that our female protagonist, Verity Newton, is on. This makes for a thrilling start to her journey and a great start to the novel for us. Although I knew going in that it was set in 1888 I never felt we were actually in that setting. There is a divide of the magisters who because they have magic are the ruling class and the rebels who are part of an underground society hoping to gain their freedom from the ruling class and British. Upon arrival in New York Verity meets some of the rebels and they assist her in making it to one of her interviews. After she has secured the job, she continues to bump into some of the very same people she met on the first day and becomes enamored with their cause. Friendships are formed and Verity sort of ends up leading a double life. She is governess to a wealthy magister family, but she also fights alongside the rebels for their freedom. She struggles with some of their tactics, but she persists and becomes their spy.
Characters – I loved Verity! She was brave and smart, she loved reading. She also had a kind heart, took care of the children, spied for the rebels, and fought for revolution. Henry is the uncle and guardian of the children to whom Verity is responsible. He is a very complex character and I really liked him from the start. I have a soft spot for someone so young that is willing to completely change their life in order to take care of his brother’s children. It is a huge responsibility and he has a lot of help, but I find it endearing. The children are lovely and sweet. The eldest daughter is quite the fire cracker. The rebels were mechanics and engineers using steam and electricity, but they were also fighting against the magisters and the red coats. There was some complexity to the rebels that was unexpected and I can’t wait to find out what happens next for them in book 2.
Setting – It was set in 1888, but I never had a clear picture of that. Because of the magical elements some technology was advanced for 1888. I enjoyed the other scenes in the story as they came alive.
Plot – The chapters were broken down in a way that makes this fast paced nonstop action, but there were times when the timeline would jump from one seemingly very long day to another “scene” lasting over the course of a few days. Overall the plot was consistent and I never felt lost or confused.
Conflict – Magisters vs. The Rebels, revolution, freedom
Resolution – Verity does her best to help the Rebels, but the British are powerful. As the rebels progress the magisters remain the champions. They are always one step ahead.
Another aspect which I haven’t touched on yet is the fact that this book is completely swoon-worthy too. Verity falls for one of the rebels but she also seems smitten with her employer. The romance is not in your face, but layered nicely within the plot. It leaves you wanting to know more. There are some revelations that are rather predictable and as the steam powered machines are such a big part of the story I sometimes got lost trying to figure out what they were. Other than that this was an excellent steampunk novel that features magic, inventions, and just the right amount of romance. I rated Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution by Shanna Swendson 4 stars.