Rebel Mechanics

The novel this week is an alternate history. If you are not familiar with these, they are stories that imagine a ‘what if’ question which alters historical events and writes the imagined result of that question.  In this case, what if the English nobility had magic in the 1700’s when the colonies were supposed to have an American Revolution. Well, that would have made the English a far superior force and the American Revolution would not have happened then.  The colonies would have had to endure the British Tea Act (which is mentioned in the book), the Stamp Act, and all the other injustices we rebelled against.

This story can also be considered steampunk. There are many definitions for steampunk. I think of steampunk as a sub-genre that emphasizes the use of steam technology in a historical setting, usually ahead of its time. This genre has become popular in the last 5 years or so. I like these stories because they have a kind of Jules Verne feel to them–a sense of wonder about them.

Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and War
by Shanna Swendson
Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History

This story takes place in 1888, when the colonies are tired of the taxes and the treatment they receive from the nobility, which are called magisters in this novel. The poor will always be poor. The rich will always be rich. Magic ability is a divide which cannot be breached and until recently, cannot be fought against, until now. Cutting edge inventions by young, brilliant engineers are making it possible to consider going up against the magisters in a subversive way.

The story begins with a train robbery by an unusually polite masked bandit with striking blue eyes. Verity, a young woman on the train and teller of this story, is seeking a position as governess among the magisters in New York City. She is hired by one of the most powerful houses in the city. Her charges, a young boy and girl and an older girl, have recently lost their parents and are now the responsibility of their uncle, who is a bit on the strange side. (He is also my favorite character.) She needs to teach the young boy and girl. She must also chaperone the elder daughter at all the most important balls and dinners held in the city.

Verity also befriends a group of Rebels who are building machines to rival magister magics. Verity is in a unique position among the magisters to spy for the rebels — to learn their secrets, but she also has a secret of her own which she must keep hidden. She wants to improve the situation in the colonies and help the rebels but if she is caught and loses her job, she has nowhere else to go. Dare she risk her livelihood for the cause?

One thing this author does very accurately is show the multitude of sides to any point of view. She shows how the rebel force doesn’t always agree on how to rebel. She shows a little of the frustrated majority who don’t like their treatment but don’t want what little joy they have in their lives destroyed by revolution. She shows the ignorant privileged as well as the sympathetic privileged. This book is filled with conflicting view points as in real life and writes them well.

I thought this story, given the title, would have some romance in it, and it does but doesn’t contain anything too graphic. I’m not  a fan of the romance genre personally, and I was pleasantly surprised that the romance in this book was not the central focus as is so often the case in YA books. There is no cursing in the book, nothing inappropriate. I’d give this a G rating.