Rebel Mechanics

Written by Shanna Swendson
Review by J. Lynn Else

It’s 1888, and 17-year-old Verity Newton is traveling to New York to interview for a governess position. On her train, however, she encounters masked bandits robbing wealthy passengers. When their leader gets too close, Verity strikes him with her bag. Instead of retaliating, the bandit smiles and bows at her before escaping.

Later, after multiple unsuccessful interviews, Verity catches a ride on a steam-powered bus.  There, she is introduced to the Rebel Mechanics, non-magical people developing non-magical power sources. They hope to free the American colonies from British tyranny. One-hundred years earlier, the American Revolution was quashed by British aristocrats who have magical abilities.

At her final interview, Verity is shocked to see that the person interviewing her has the same icy-pale blue eyes as the train bandit! Why would a wealthy lord steal? With some trepidation, she accepts his job offer. Verity meets up again with the rebels and becomes sympathetic to their cause, until she discovers they’ve been keeping secrets from her. But Verity also has a secret, a dangerous one that threatens her life. A new American revolution is on the horizon; which side will Verity choose?

Swendson’s characters are charming. Verity is strong in intelligence and conviction-a good heroine for young adults. The relationship between Verity and her employer, Lord Henry, is delightful; they make a humorous duo. But what’s most intriguing about the plot is Swendson’s exploration of the-end-justifies-the-means methods and how issues are not merely black and white in nature.

Swendon does an excellent job balancing historical accuracy (keeping in mind the different revolutionary outcome) with steampunk innovation. The inventions were creative. This book will please readers who enjoy elements of steampunk, alternate reality, historical fiction, magic wielding, revolutionary spies, and/or romantic adventures with a dash of Jane Austen flair thrown in. A very enjoyable read.