A steampunk heroine saves the world in a debut adventure.
Fourteen-year-old Catherine Hunter is a child of one of the most powerful men in the Anglyan government, but that doesn’t mean she’s had a happy childhood. Her cartoonishly evil father presides over a reign of terror in war-torn Anglya, and he has been violently abusive against Catherine all her life. Rather than be forced into a loveless marriage, Catherine disguises herself as a boy and stows away on a skyship. Its jovial, do-gooder crew turns out to be smugglers for justice. They all, from dishy ginger orphan Fox to motherly, stew-ladling cook Alice, happily integrate Catherine—going now by “Cat”—into their ranks. As Catherine learns that everything she’s ever known about her country is a lie, she’s thrust into the usual high-stakes fight to save the world. This struggle is paced just right for her to have lovers’ quarrels while sneaking around the most dangerous building in the country. The pieces are all here for a plucky-girl adventure, but the details—secondary characters right out of central casting, cheesy dialogue, a rushed and badly dissonant conclusion—hang ill-fitting on the age-of-steam framework.
Affectionate “mecha,” gruesome battles, deathbed confessions and stolen children make all the right ingredients for a result not quite baked; send it back to Alice in the galley. (Steampunk. 11-13)