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....
©2011 Shelley Adina (P)2013 Shelley Adina
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
The setup led me to believe that we were dealing with a strong-willed, steampunk lady with a penchant for building devices and blowing things up. I'm good with the idea. The world needs more heroines like that, and as such I expected to like this one more than I did. I didn't NOT like it, but I didn't really like it as much as I hoped either. I kept waiting for... more. I admit, I got spoiled with Morris and Ballantine's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels in regards to female leads such as this. But then, those are high-powered steampunk adventure novels, and this one... not really an adventure regardless of what the cover billing says. Not yet, anyway.
As origin stories go, this one's believable. The credibility is there, with the explanation of her father's death and loss of fortune serving to boot our lady to the next phase of her life. I think the issue is one of pacing. There's plenty of character here, but beyond her father's death and the subsequent fallout, not much happens until about the last hour or so of the audiobook. It's like our heroine is so smart that she knows how to avoid the plot before becoming truly victimized by it. By the time she becomes the Lady of Devices pretty much in a single moment, the story seems pretty much over before it really gets going. And as to her personality, she's likable enough, but it seems like she's sandwiched between the layers. She's too unconventional for the high society life she started in, but she's too conventional to be a streetwise success. I commend her for wanting to take care of the kids and set them on a better path and all, but... well, the kids are part of why I'm not really invested. I would rather she spend more time building gadgets and blowing stuff up (preferably by design rather than by accident) than teaching kids basic arithmetic and how not to steal. There are some good ideas skirting the edges of the story here and there, especially in regards to the tech, which is always mandatory in a steampunk novel, but again... more is better.
I can only assume, given the short, quickly-read nature of these books, that now that the origin story is out of the way, the path is clear to tell bigger stories. Thing is, I didn't get that idea by the end of it either. The way is clear, but to bigger stories? Not really convinced. Only one way to know for sure, and I may circle back around for book 2 at some point simply because it is a quick read. I'm open to seeing the potential unfold for this one.
Fiona Hardingham did a wonderful job with the narration, and she's got a beautiful voice, a perfect match for what I'd imagine the Lady of Devices to sound like.
I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (teen historical fiction) - This is Book 1 in the Magnificent Devices series. It is probably a great book for teens but, let's face it, I'm not a teen and I bought it by mistake. It's well-written and beautifully performed, but the story is simple and fairly juvenile. It is based somewhere in England in the early days of steam engines. The main character, Claire, is a young lady of fine breeding who graduates from the English equivalent of high school. Then through a series of events, she finds herself on the streets, penniless, and taking care of a bunch of orphan children and surviving in the underworld. The characters are endearing, but the story just never had enough going on to interest my adult brain. The ending of the book is more like the beginning of a new alliance, so you will need to continue the series if you want to come to the conclusion. I'm stopping here.
PERFORMANCE - The narrator is female and has a lovely voice. I enjoyed listening to her read the story.
OVERALL - No sex or cursing and just a tiny bit of violence, so it's fine for teenagers. Just remember the story doesn't stand alone. I'd recommend for girls more than for guys because the main character is female. Adults need to skip this book.
In my opinion, a good story evokes emotion. It'll make me laugh, angry, or cry. But it can't just be words on a page. It has to do something
There were parts I liked, but there were a lot of parts I didn't like. Girl versus the system I liked. Girl not being isolated from society I didn't like. I guess I just can't get into "steampunk", but I tried. I can't in good conscience recommend this book. I give it an "E" for effort. Try at your own risk.
I have been enjoying listening to books since the late 90's and reading them the old fashioned way since my parents taught me!
My 15 year old son and I already have listened to it a second time! Fiona Hardingham, the reader, portrays the characters well and with great variation. The supporting characters have their own back stories and we have enjoyed the conversations sparked by imagining what it may have been like to be on one's own at such a young age.
The author, Shelley Adina, was one of the first to introduce us to steampunk adventures, and we gobbled the whole series up. There really was something for everyone in this book: scientific inquiry, a strong independent female lead, an ethical, caring (although often confused) male lead, an evil social climbing capitalist, a conspiracy, a fight to protect natural resources by an oppressed group, and a smattering of history, and much more.
The author, Shelley Adina, was one of the first to introduce us to steampunk adventures, and we gobbled the whole series up. There really was something for everyone in this book: scientific inquiry, a strong independent female lead, and ethical, caring (although often confused) male lead, an evil social climbing capitalist, a conspiracy, a fight to protect natural resources by an oppressed group, and a smattering of history, and much more.
The main character, Claire, is my favorite. She has a "fake it till you make it" sort of approach to the situation(s) in which she finds herself. For the most part her logical mind assists her in acting appropriately, but it is tempered by her kind heart and sense of duty.
Without giving away any of the story, I was moved by the way Claire handles the death of one of her parents, the relationship she had with that parent, and how both impacted her and (I think) created a fierce sense of loyalty and protectiveness in her.
I probably shouldn't rave the way I am because everyone out there might expect that this should be their next favorite book / series. Let me sum it all up this way: listening to this book made my commute something I looked forward to and provided an opportunity for my son and I to spend some quality time together. Happy listening:+)
The story was really engaging.
If you like Etiquette and Espionage, you will enjoy this book.
It was very dynamic.
The Mopsy sisters are really endearing.
The book ended rather suddenly.
I loved the Lady of Devices stories in print and looked forward to an audio version. By and large, the narrator does a decent job, and she has some nice voice differentiation for the various characters, but she does mispronounce some fairly common words very badly - Hors d'oeuvres had the s sounded, viscount wasn't vy-count, etc. They're just enough of a bobble to throw the listener out of the story.
A really fun story and not that predictable, so keeps you interested. It is an easy listen and goes quickly. Overall I enjoyed it.
The story starts rather slowly, but give it time and Lady Claire will capture your imagination. At the end of the first book I found I couldn't resist buying the second book. Wow, all of a sudden I was in this Steampunk London.
Although I enjoyed the book a lot, I think that someone 50 or 60 years younger than I would really enjoy it. The heroine is very spunky and likable.
Her narrative seemed to fit the characters perfectly. It was a delight listening to it.
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