Title: The Girl With The Windup Heart
Series/Universe: The Steampunk Chronicles, #4
Author: Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: May 27th 2014
Page Count: 304 pages
Age Rating: NA & Up (violence, language, and extremely vague sexual references)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received a copy to review
Publisher’s page: The Girl With The Windup Heart
1897 London, a final showdown is about to begin
London’s underworld is no place for a young woman, even one who is strong, smart and part-automaton like Mila. But when master criminal Jack Dandy inadvertently breaks her heart, she takes off, determined to find an independent life, one entirely her own. Her search takes her to the spangled shadows of the West End’s most dazzling circus.
Meanwhile, taken captive in the Aether, Griffin King is trapped in an inescapable prison, and at the mercy of his archenemy, The Machinist. If he breaks under the hellish torment, The Machinist will claim his powers and control of the Aether itself, and no one in either world will be safe—especially not Finley Jayne and her misfit band of friends.
Finley plunges headlong into the Aether the only way she knows how, by temporarily dying. But she cannot parry The Machinist’s maneuvers for long. To defeat him for good, Griffin will have to confront his greatest fear and finally come face-to-face with the destructive power he wields.
Spoiler alert: there is no girl with a windup heart in The Girl With The Windup Heart – in fact, the word windup doesn’t appear anywhere in the entire book. Still loved the book though, it’s very much like The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, characters with extraordinary abilities in a steampunk Victorian setting, but with more couples and romantic couple-ly plotlines.
The Girl With The Windup Heart is the fourth book in The Steampunk Chronicles series, but the first and only book of the series I’ve read. The author does a fantastic job of catching the reader up on who’s who and what’s what so it didn’t take me long to orient myself in the unfolding story – well, stories. The Girl With The Windup Heart is actually two pretty much separate stories in one – Finley’s crusade to save her beloved from the Aether and Mila’s adventures as her and Jack go through some growing pains in their relationship – only touching briefly in the middle of the book and at the end. I almost wish the different storylines had been separated into two different books as the jumping back and forth between the two seemingly incongruent plots does slow down the pacing a little.
I loved loved loved the characters in this – especially since you know I love a strong female protagonist. Both Finley and Mila are strong women, literally with Finley inheriting superhuman strength as part of her genetics as the daughter of a Jekyll/Hyde-esque character and Mila being part ingenue and part machine. Both ladies are willing to kick some butt to protect their men and I love that kind of role reversal. The guys are interesting characters as well and act as two sides of the same coin – Griffen can manipulate Aether and is all about doing the right thing at all times and Jack can manipulate people’s minds and is more than willing to get his hands dirty to get things done, but really both are good men and honorable in their own right.
I was very surprised by how young the characters are supposed to be – I didn’t even realize it until a comment was thrown out about Finley being seventeen. I should have realized, I suppose, since the book is published by Harlequin Teen, but there really is no indication, outside the previously mentioned line, within the story. Griffen, Finley’s man who she’s willing to go to extremes to save, is a powerful Duke with whom she lives, while Jack Dandy, who Mila is a ward of, is a criminal mastermind and club owner. All the characters read as very adult with very adult problems and relationships, possibly a byproduct of all the things they’ve had to go through over the course of the series. And of course, being seventeen in Victorian times is not the same as being seventeen in modern times, so there is that to consider as well.
With its intriguing characters, interesting setting, and excellent world-building, I definitely recommend The Girl With The Windup Heart to lovers of steampunk and science fiction set in the Victorian era. I absolutely plan to read the other books in The Steampunk Chronicles – there’s a robo-man and his technopathic girlfriend, a cat girl, and a Flash-like American cowboy acting as secondary characters in this book who I’d love to get to know better.
A good portion of The Girl With The Windup Heart takes place in the Aether or has to do with manipulating Aether for various reasons. Aether in The Steampunk Chronicles is defined as “the energy expelled by all living creatures, and the realm of the dead” and seems to be used for everything from tech to guns. While it’s kind of a one-stop-shop wonder product, my favorite incarnation of Aether is as the land of the dead, a darkly ethereal place entirely made up of Aether that acts as a kind of purgatory. As a good complement to the mysterious otherworldly aura of the Aether, I recommend Philz Coffee Ether – a lovely dark and deep, smokey roast described as “not for the faint of heart”.