"A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret."
Carolyn's thoughts on the book:
In the same vein as Something Strange and Deadly and the Stoker and Holmes novels, Rebel Mechanics is a brilliant novel set in an alternate Victorian world; this time, the upper class of Britain possesses magical powers that prevented the American Revolution from winning a century before. Now, as the end of the 19th century approaches, Verity (the main character) finds herself in a world very different from the 1800s readers are familiar with: since the British are still ruling, slavery was outlawed in 1831 (when it was outlawed in Britain) and thus the Civil War never happened. But the starkest difference is that the use of magic in everyday life means that the Industrial Revolution hasn't occurred yet, as there's no need for new technology. The vivid setting plays a tremendous role in the story - rebel inventions and machines threaten the way the colonists are forced to rely upon the magistrers' magic. Verity becomes swept up in everything the day she arrives - first, when her train is mysteriously robbed by seemingly-magical bandits, and then when she dares to ride an experimental bus built by rebels. Upon securing a position as a governess for a magistrer family where everything is not as it seems, Verity is caught between two worlds, neither her own: the magical, upper-class realm of the magistrates and the increasingly violent and radical world of the rebel mechanics. Added to the mix is Verity's half-magistrer heritage (and magical powers), in addition to her employer's mysterious involvement with the bandits and possible sympathy for the rebel cause. While Verity increasingly finds herself in a position to pass along important information, she also begins to doubt the morality of the practices of the rebels - an angle I definitely appreciate, considering that most of the many YA books featuring a rebel cause paint such cause as a just crusade, rather than an effort that can veer into morally ambiguous territory. Verity is a character who undergoes subtle but intriguing character development throughout the novel - first, when she comes to New York and begins to discover the ideas of rebels, and then later, when she becomes increasingly against the less-than-upright actions of the rebels (while still supporting the movement as a whole, which demonstrates nuance that sadly can be lacking sometimes in YA). Overall, Verity is a smart and balanced character whose trusting and caring nature (especially toward her pupils) serves to make her only more likable, not to turn her into a Naïve Everygirl. Rebel Mechanics is fantastic read, full of adventure and subtle politics alike and perfect for fans of an alternate Victorian age.
Carolyn is a teen blogger who shares her favorite YA reads and favorite book related finds with readers on Fridays.