Magnificent Devices #1
Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina (2011): 5 out of 10: In a steampunk Victorian England, Lady Claire Trevelyan, a brilliant and ambitious young woman, defies the constraints of her aristocratic upbringing to pursue her passion for science and engineering. After her family’s fortune is lost in a disastrous investment, Claire’s dreams of attending university are shattered, leaving her to navigate the harsh realities of a world she was once sheltered from.
Determined to forge her own path, Claire stumbles upon a group of ragtag street urchins led by the charismatic and cunning Jake. Intrigued by their mechanical skills and street-smarts, Claire forms an alliance with them, and they become her “gang,” dubbed the Mopsies. With their help, she delves into the world of steampunk contraptions and gears, discovering her unique talent for creating magnificent devices.
As Claire hones her skills and builds a name for herself as the “Lady of Devices,” she must contend with the expectations of high society, as well as the sinister forces that seek to exploit her talents for their own nefarious purposes. In a thrilling race against time, Claire must outsmart her enemies and overcome daunting challenges to protect her newfound family and secure her place in a world of innovation and possibility.
Lady of Devices is the first book in the Magnificent Devices series, which follows the adventures of Lady Claire Trevelyan and her extraordinary journey from high society lady to a brilliant inventor and leader in a world powered by steam and gears.
The Good: As I stated in the conclusion for my Gears of The Mad God review, Lady of Devices is a very well-written book with excellent world building. You get a real feel for a late Victorian England that is almost the same historically (The Crystal Palace is the penultimate location) but is very different as well with new technology and an even more stratified social structure than Victorian England enjoyed.
The Bad: I am not a big fan of Oliver!. I like the music. It is the book I am not a fan of. I have never been a fan of child criminal shenanigans. Lady of Devices spends quite a bit of time introducing our heroine, Lady Claire Trevelyan, her failures navigating among her peers in school and with her mother. Her father’s fall and eventual suicide, and two potential love interests, (A kind hearted inventor out of her station and an arrogant noble who is well arrogant.)
Then Lady of Devices takes a left turn to basically a different genre. In theory, I have no issues with this. Nothing livens up a Regency Romance more than say the dead coming back to life.
But turning Lady Claire Trevelyan into a naïve, kindhearted and yet ruthless Fagin? I just don’t buy it.
As an example, early on. The bad guys have her beloved steam car, the street urchins have her jewelry and clothing and neither she nor the street urchins have a pot to piss in or a roof over their head. Our heroine’s solution? Teach the illiterate street urchins, math, and then poker, and then set them upon the criminal underworld to wipe out the professional gamblers.
I have no issues with the main character being stupid. I am less charitable when the main characters’ baffling plan seems to work without a hitch. Once the twelve-year-olds came back to the headquarters with a bunch of poker winnings, I noped out.
The Ugly: There is a scene early on where our heroine is stripped of all her possessions and clothing and left unconscious in the alley. She is otherwise unmolested. I have no problem with the book not going there. I do, however, have an issue of the character not worrying about such things. She seems oblivious to the potential threat.
Okay, so I can accept the fact that the character is so naïve it does not even occur to her that a group of criminal ruffians might rape her unconscious body. Lady of Devices is not that kind of story. Except, a little later (Spoiler alert) she takes over a criminal enterprise by decapitating its leadership (Actually killing him with his own lighting gun) and offering his compatriots (who are heavily armed adults) a join me or not proposal.
The book is very shy about what kind of criminal enterprise this is. (Smuggling is mentioned) but it seems a lucrative and heavily armed one. Not since Michael Corleone went to Sofia Coppola’s baptism has a criminal enterprise been so ruthlessly dealt with. A criminal enterprise now run by our seventeen-year-old girl; who may not know what sex is or opium or whatever she is currently earning money in?
In Conclusion: As I stated in my Gears of the Mad God review, the job of book one in a series is to set up the world and characters and make me want to read book #2. Lady of Devices fails to meet this goal. It really comes closer than what I wrote in my review indicates. The last couple of chapters seem to find a plot that is more grounded. And to its credit, the end gives our heroine a proper choice instead of the loaded one Gears did.
I just can’t get past the plot twists (and solutions) in the middle of this book. I really feel I know the character less well than I did a few chapters in. She is all over the place. I think Shelly Adina is a very talented author and I admire how she incorporated her love of rescuing chickens into her story. I just don’t want to spend another book with Lady Claire Trevelyan.