The Literary Escapism Blog has hosted a new author challenge since 2009. They ask you to choose a number of new authors to read and then review their books during the year. I chose to read 25 this year. Since this is the first book I’ve read by Shelley Adina it’s listed with the Literary Escapism blog on their 2013 New Author Challenge page. You can also check out my page for the new authors I’ve read and reviewed so far this year.
Lady of Devices: A Steampunk Adventure Novel
by Shelley Adina
Series: Magnificent Devices, book 1
Published by: Shelley Adina, 2011
Synopsis: London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world.
At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices.
When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . if they can both stay alive long enough to see that sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . .
The book begins in a school for young women being trained mainly to make their debut in society and make a good marriage. Claire, however, doesn’t care about those things. She likes science and all things to do with steam power. She has a habit of blowing things up though. That’s how the book starts…she’s at St. Cecelia’s Academy for Young Ladies and blows up her experiment during Chemistry class–mostly because the professor wouldn’t tell her what would happen if she combined certain things. She’s very curious and not afraid to explode things. Of course, the popular girls tease her and make fun of her. The book starts out very traditionally and predictably.
Claire doesn’t want to get married right away as her parents expect her to. She wants to go to Oxford and become an engineer. Her mother is horrified at the mere mention. Her father loses all their money by thinking the combustion engine would win out over the steam engine (silly man!) Claire doesn’t have to worry about coming out and marrying some rich titled lord. Now she has to worry about surviving and this is where the story becomes less conventional.
Through a series of mishaps Claire finds herself stranded in London without a place to stay. With her talent for chemistry and blowing things up she becomes the Lady of Devices. From this point on she is more an adventurer and creates her own life rather than letting it happen. I liked the steampunk aspects of the story…especially that her father loses his money by betting it on the internal combustion engine! Claire learns to drive the family steam landau (before they lose all their money) and she had ridden a quadricycle. It’s fun to read the names and descriptions of these devices.
I initially gave the book a B+ when I read it in January, but as I was writing this review I realized I’d forgotten a lot of the book. I had to re-read quite a bit of it, so even though I enjoyed the book, I downgraded it a bit since I couldn’t remember it!
The book is self-published and the author has done a good job with the editing and writing. There are already four books in the series, but I’ve only read this first one so far. I do have the second book–Her Own Devices–and plan to move it up my TBR list.