A spunky mechanic stars as a steampunk Cinderella who doesn’t need rescuing.
In a kingdom where Fey magic is illegal, orphaned Nicolette mustn't let on that she uses magic to clean her stepmother's house. To avoid trouble, she also keeps mum about her crafting of coal-powered contraptions in a hidden workshop. Nick's long-dead mother had been a superb mechanic, and when, on Nick's 16th birthday, the key to her mother's secret forge magically appears, the lonely girl throws herself into engineering. It's a small happiness in her life of drudgery, but it’s nothing to the hope she feels when the king declares a Cultural Exposition Gala. The exposition, to honor the achievements of the "most brilliant inventors and artisans” in the land, highlights what's so compelling about this retelling: Nick has no desire to attend a ball or meet a prince. Instead, the young businesswoman aims to set herself up as a working inventor. With the help of her new friends, loving Caro and gorgeous, brown-skinned Fin, Nick's determined to make it to the event. No fairy godmother here; with a little help from her friends, Nick's responsible for everything from glass slipper to carriage. Though the premise will beg comparisons to Marissa Meyer's Cinder (2011), Nick and her friends travel a very different journey, sidestepping typical romantic structures to find their own way.
A smart, refreshing alternative to stale genre tropes. (Steampunk/fairy tale. 12-15)