Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Author
Publication Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Steam Punk, Fairy Tale Retellings, Fantasy


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.


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.

One advice: Do take that piece of information seriously. Otherwise, you might end up thinking that this is the most awful Cinderella retelling ever written, as I did.

Remember the movie Into the Woods? Remember how, for the most part, it was beautiful and enchanting and it made you feel the desire to sing along with the actors… until it didn’t anymore? That’s exactly how it went with Mechanica. It was no Cinder, but now I wish it shared more similarities with that lovely book, because this piece of literature didn’t make fairytale dreams; it crushed them.

You might think me exaggeratedly harsh or perhaps inconsiderate, but since when does Cinderella act aggressively? Since when does she hit people? Laugh at others? Judge them? Call little creatures ‘‘minions’’?

I don’t even want to wait for her to finish. Whatever she was trying to say, I was sure I didn’t need to hear it.
I laughed at her and left.


Yet it wasn’t until I caught sight of the patent boots that had crushed Jules adoring Chastity’s feet that I moved, that I stepped forward and slapped her as hard as I could across the mouth.

I was more than shocked to read those written lines. I can’t believe the author made her character do such a thing. The real Cinderella knows better than to let emotions ruin her inside beauty.

I thought this retelling will make me plunge straight back into the wonders that are fairytales and princes and cheesy but oh so dreamy love stories. Well it didn’t. Maybe I should have expected less, but how could I have? That cover should be replaced by something less charming and darker. (Am I the only one finding it a resemblance to The Princess and the Frog?)

It wasn’t all disappointing though or, in my case, infuriating. I loved the writing and how the author skilfully managed to include steam punk elements into a classic retelling. There was some good originality in this. If only the author hadn’t distorted so much the fairytale figure that is Cinderella in her book…

*heavy sigh*


24 thoughts on “Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

  1. Oh no… It’s sad, I was so curious about this one because I’m so in love with this gorgeous cover (yes I’m that kind of girls). But finally I think I’ll pass.


  2. I’m actually okay with the personality change. I love re-tellings, but if an author bends it and makes it her own, then I’m all for it. I seen on goodreads where you said she hit someone, I’m actually itching to see what went down. I must say I’m definitely still intrigued to read this. I want to read it now, but with the release date being all the way in August, I think I’ll wait till about June/July-ish to dive in. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it Lola darling 😦


  3. I don’t know if I’ll mind the personality change or not, but I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. It had such a pretty cover too! Hope your next book is more enjoyable.


  4. I actually saw this book and fell in love with the cover, but never really felt pulled to reading it. And I doubt I will. I am sure that retellings are allowed to do things unique and amazing (I mean… look at Cinder) but I don’t think this is the kind of character we should have as our main character. I doubt I would survive this book, especially at what she did! D:


  5. I kind of want to read a Cinderella retelling in which she doesn’t marry the prince, but learns to save herself and I LOVE books with badass mechanics, BUT I wasn’t a huge fan of Into the Woods, and the excerpts you chose make me dislike the main character (even though that might just be because they’re out of context). I ADORE good retellings, but there have been a lot of misses with them lately. Thanks for the review!


  6. I think that Disney makes Cinderella as this perfect girl who never does anything wrong even when she’s being bullied by her step family. I don’t think its a bad thing that this retelling focuses on a Cinderella character that makes mistakes and I’m interested in learning more about her when I get around to reading it. Definitely intrigued by the steampunk aspects as I have been meaning to delve into the genre. I can’t wait to read this, thanks for your review! 🙂


  7. A rude Cinderella? Well, that a want to read hahahaha I think we all have this lovely image about Cinderella and I suppose the author wanted to re-tell the very well-known fairytale in a completely different way. But the cover lies though hahahaha


  8. Yikes. I was on the fence about this one but… I don’t know if it would work for me. I would be fine if Cinderella had been like, grumpy, or moody, or fierce, or whatever. But rude? Mean? Nope, I can’t do it. I can look past a LOT of flaws, but that just isn’t one of them. But I will certainly look out from more from the author, since you enjoyed the writing!


  9. It’s funny, but I had this weird feeling that this one might very well be a letdown, and from what I read in your review here^^ I wasn’t wrong. This definitely does NOT sound like anything I want to try out now – I’m sorry you had to suffer through that but thanks for the lovely review all the same 🙂

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews


  10. Oh, well I am glad to see it didn’t copy Cinder, because I was afraid that would happen. Also I was kind of looking forward to this because I like Betsy Cornwall’s writing, but I don’t know how I will feel about the characters in this one. HOPE YOUR NEXT READ IS BETTER LOLA


  11. I agree with you, and I was pretty disappointed with this book! I really didn’t like the ending, and even though Betsy Cornwell is a good writer, I found myself bored throughout long chunks of the book. Also, was it just me or was this book seriously lacking in dialogue? Great review! =)


  12. Pingback: Looking Back on August 2015 Book Releases - These Paper Hearts

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