Book Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell + YA FAIRYTALE TROPES

LOOK AT THE GORGEOUS COVER!

304 pages
Published: August 25th 2015 by Clarion Books
Genres: Fairytale retellings, YA, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk


I never expected much of anything to happen, and nothing much did. I was in a constant state of waiting for things to begin.

Summary (Taken from Goodreads): Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.


Fairytale retellings are becoming all the rage: from Cinder, Stitching Snow to A Court of Thorns and Roses as well as The Wrath and The Dawn. But what exactly makes them so popular? And so successful? Given that many of them are the same story, re-told, what makes them so gosh darn attractive?

In my opinion, fairytale retellings thrive due to the originality of the retelling. People enjoy reading the authors take on a certain story, whether it be medieval, steampunk or dystopian. Diverse characters (whether or not they are actually people of colour or not) bring diverse backgrounds and experiences into a story, thereby imbuing it with a life of its own. Plot twists are also essential (because one can only do so much with the EXACT same story.

At least, that is what I enjoy about retellings, and it explains why I disliked this story.

This story is a literal retelling of Cinderella. When I say ‘literal’, I mean that everything is predictable all the way. It doesn’t take the story and change it, adding to a new setting and plot. Rather, it adds an amazing setting to a boring plot.
I really feel that it isn’t so much the retelling aspect that disappointed me, but the fact that this book had potential.
LIKE SO MUCH POTENTIAL.

Pulling-at-my-hair-near-tears potential.

The world building was the bomb dot com. I literally could not get enough at the beginning, absorbing every tiny little piece of knowledge that I could get. It was a mixture of Steampunk and Fae – and so much detail that I felt it HAD to be essential to the story. I mean, why would you tell me all that if you weren’t going to use it in the first place?
Honestly (SPOILERS), Fae antagonism, revolution, political intrigue and a mysterious disease (not to mention a possibly hidden prince) and IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PLOT?!?
Do you understand what I am getting at? LOOK AT ALL THAT COULD HAVE POSSIBLY HAPPENED, in addition to the main ending of the book, which I will mention later. (END SPOILERS)

Those details ended up really frustrating me, because it was so open ended. I mean, you could have at least given me something else to chew on.

But no, I was stuck for 300 pages with a character I didn’t even like.

My dislike stems from the feeling that Nicolette was two dimensional. With everything else going on, I really didn’t like reading about her (which sucked, considering that this book is written in first person). She was less ‘perfect’ than a typical Cinderella, which I appreciated, but other than that I didn’t care for her. I know many reviewers enjoyed her strong feminist actions and the ‘close female friendship’, but the only message I got was that character building came second to world building and later on, to the main message. Nicolette didn’t really do anything wrong, but she didn’t really stand out. In fact, none of the other characters did either, whether it be the prince or her ‘friend’. I felt so detached: even the romance couldn’t keep it together.

(SPOILERS)

Now, most people enjoyed the ending because Nicolette turned down the prince’s proposal because he was in love with her best friend. She states at the end that she wasn’t any less loved and still knows what she is worth.

No offense, but so?

SHE LITERALLY SPENDS THE LAST 200 PAGES pining over him and wondering if he likes her or not. That made me really angry. I mean, the whole book, just to deliver a message at the end that ‘she don’t need no man’? I mean, sure, GO FEMINISM and everything, but that was the only thing this book was after? Forgoing the plot, the fantastical world, just to preach?!? To give me such an obvious message? I’m sorry, no thank you!

(END SPOILERS)

The tropes and clichés did nothing to further my enjoyment because like the quote I chose, I was in a constant state of waiting.
And when you reach the last page of the book realizing that nothing happened, you want those 3 hours you spent reading back.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad book, per say, it just could have (and has) been done better.

My final rating: 2 out of 5 stars.


This book wasn’t all that bad because it has inspired me to create a mini fun post, because Y(A) not? 😀

YA FAIRYTALE TROPES

Stuck? Not sure how to write your books? Never fear, Sarah is here, with the most popular cliches to fill your books!

PICK A FAIRY TALE:

1- Cinderella (a classic, sure to be read)

2- Beauty and the Beast (Because bad boys can change)

4- Little Red Riding Hood. (Because girls can be badass)

3- 1001 Nights, Aladdin, Ali Baba etc. (Because exotic locations are in, never mind that my mother used to tell me this story when it definitely was not cool).

PICK YOUR SETTING:

1- Dystopian World

2- Steampunk

3- Fantasy

4- Contemporary

5- Exotic location (Asia or the Middle East)

PICK YOUR MAIN CHARACTER:

FEMALE: Basically every fairytale retelling I’ve ever read.
MALE: I’ve never ever read one of these.
LGBTQ: Ditto on the boys

IF YOU PICKED FEMALE:

She must be:

  • Strong
  • Independent
  • Preferably able to rescue herself
  • Don’t need no man
MMMHMMM
If YOU PICKED MALE or LGBTQ:
  • Good luck and don’t screw it up. Make them interesting, because you’ll be the first.


Don’t get me wrong, I love fairytales and their various retellings, but honestly, YA could be doing so much more. If you guys have any suggestions of diverse, YA, fairytales, please tell me (so I can read them before they become even more cliche 😉 Can you believe that Cinder was considered ground breaking when it first came out?)
~Sarah ❤

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell + YA FAIRYTALE TROPES

    • sublimereads says:

      I’ve read both stories (well, I’m actually currently reading The Wrath and The Dawn) and I’d say they both have their merits. Honestly, The Wrath and The Dawn isn’t that bad. I do have some issues (but that’s just me nitpicking).
      I actually have no problem with retellings, especially ones that are different fairytales (like 1001 Arabian Nights). Exposing people to different cultures and stories is great, as long as real research is done 😀
      Go ahead and read TWaTD ~ you, me and Faith could totally fangirl together 😀
      ~Sarah ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Genea @ My Heart Beats For Books says:

    I was planning on pre-ordering this book, but some early reviews gave it low ratings so I decided I will probably just borrow it if I decide to read it.

    Retellings in YA is so rampant, not enough original ideas, not just fairy tales too, and only a few of them are really good. I actually like the Lunar Chronicles series, I thought the Steampunk aspect made it a little different from the others. But I guess that’s not so new now. Your mini post is right about how alike all these books are, I read a few descriptions of new retellings coming soon and thought, this sounds familiar. A Thousand Nights sounds so much like Cruel Beauty, which I wasn’t a fan of.

    Thanks for your great review, your mini post was really funny, so true. Haven’t come across any LGBTQ fairy tales, would love to. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • sublimereads says:

      I did pre-order it 😀 I’m not too disappointed because the cover is gorgeous 😛

      That is exactly how I feel. With the quantity of retellings, it is hard to find one that sticks out. Lunar Chronicles is an example (in my opinion, and yours too 😉 ) The science-y aspect really stood out ~ I even enjoyed the steampunk quality in Mechanica. Those ideas were a small aspect that help books stand out. I think A Thousand Nights is more 1001 Arabian Nights inspired than Beauty and the Beast, though.

      Thank you for commenting! And I totally understand ~ you should have seen my face when I realized I’ve never even read a retelling with a boy as a main character, let alone a member of the LGBTQ community. I seriously want someone to write that retelling. #TAKEMYMONEYALREADY
      ❤ Sarah

      Liked by 1 person

  2. _forevermint says:

    This was such a fun review to read! I’ve been thinking about reading this as the cover initially caught my attention. Though it did sound a bit like Cinder, you’re definitely right about fairytales being all the rage right now xD I kind of want to pick this up just to see the world building for myself. Thank you for the spoiler warnings! I swear I don’t see them enough lol. Also, do you listen to kpop? I couldn’t help but notice the Miss A gif hehe. And omg! A fairytale retelling with a male lead would be amazing!! Someone needs to do that asap 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • sublimereads says:

      Aw, thanks 🙂 I’m glad my spoiler warnings came in handy. For sure check it out ~ you may find that you enjoyed it.
      😀 YES FINALLY SOMEONE NOTICED MY SNEAKY KPOP GIFs.
      You get 100 points 😉 I do enjoy listening to Kpop.
      We do need more interesting retellings.
      Thanks for commenting! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. forwardsandbookwords says:

    Fantastic review! I don’t know how I missed it the first time, but I was searching for reviews of this book because I was considering buying it when I stumbled upon your blog in the search results (and obviously I trust your opinion!). I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it – the things you didn’t like sound really frustrating! I like how you added the bonus YA fairytale tropes at the end; unfortunately, they’re all super true! Sigh, sounds like I’m passing on this one (but hey, at least it has a nice cover) 🙂

    Like

    • sublimereads says:

      Why thank you! ❤
      throws confetti SOMEONE TRUSTS ME! 😀 I’m happy you think highly of our opinions 😊 I’m glad you enjoyed it. I didn’t realize how true they were until I finished writing them 😛
      The cover looks really good on my shelf, so I’m not too upset 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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