My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is the perfect example of what I call a great cotton-candy read. Cotton candy is sweet, sticky and fun to consume, yet even while I’m enjoying it, I know it’s nothing but air and sugar that will rot my teeth. Bad cotton candy leaves me with a queasy sense of disappointment. Good cotton candy tastes so delicious I’m willing to accept a little brain rot as the price of indulgence.
This is excellent sugary fluff.
I’m picky about my steampunk. It shares some innate problematic issues with cyberpunk, another genre that inspires ambivalence in my heart. In both, style is more important than substance, science is often relegated to the status of stage dressing, and atmosphere is all. I prefer steampunk that snuggles up to paranormal or science fantasy elements. The inclusion of an obvious MacGuffin, whether it be called aether or outright magic, means I can more easily suspend my disbelief about the fun clockwork gadgetry.
Lady of Devices doesn’t do this, but I gave it a try anyway. It plays so fast and loose with basic physical science and engineering that if I’d paused for even a second during the read, I would’ve been laughing out loud at the factual inaccuracies. Ah, but I didn’t pause. The plucky heroine’s narrative voice, the capers and conspiracies, the delightfully-described action — all those things distracted me from the ridiculousness.
Other less than thrilling aspects: the story plays a bit fast and loose with cultural/historical presentation as well, with most characters falling too neatly into stereotypes for my taste, and villains with motives so simplified they approach melodrama standards. The characterization of Our Heroine’s attitude wavers between prissy and plucky at times; although she settles on the progressive side of the fence toward the end.
And there’s a love triangle. Sigh.
The romantic sub plot is a messy one, though, and neither match is made in heaven. The refusal to let that one element go the predictable direction is what made the book stick with me, and the other messy bits of this story are what really won me over. The world has a lot to offer, and nothing ended up quite where it seemed it was going all along.
That intrigued me enough to keep going with the second book, and I can say that unlike a lot of series, this one just gets better with each book so far.