Reading level: Young Adult/Adult
Size: 464 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Book Expo America
Rating: 5/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book signed by the author at Book Expo America. I have been looking forward to reading it for some time. It was an excellent book; exquisitely written and creative. It was a slow but wonderful read.
Violet is a genius at building mechanical contraptions and wants desperately to go to the Illyria school for genius students; only problem is Illyria doesn’t admit women. So Violet, along with her twin brother Ashton, and their friend Jack, devise a devious plan. Violet will pretend to be Ashton and attend Illyria, if she can get in. Once at Illyria Violet’s end of the year project will be the least of her troubles. There are killer automatons in the basements, the Duke of Illyria’s ward has fallen in love with Violet-as-a-man, and Violet is in love with the Duke.
Fans of Jane Austen or The Importance of Being Earnest that love a bit of a steampunk twist to their witty banter will love this book. Being that it is written in that more flowery type of Victorian style this is a slow read and things move very deliberately at parts of the book. That being said the description and writing style is absolutely exquisite. The witty banter between the characters is wonderful and lots of fun to read. The mystery behind the school’s basement, along with all the crazy “who loves who” twisting of the plot kept me completely engaged.
The characters are wonderful. I loved them all. Especially Violet, Ashton, and Jack. These are smart, funny, heartfelt characters that I really loved getting to know. Even side characters are complex and fun to read about. The book switches viewpoint quite a bit, although the majority of the story is told from Violet’s point of view. I didn’t find the viewpoint switching distracting or anything, although there were a couple times that I desperately wanted to know what would happen to Violet next and scanned through another character’s viewpoint as fast as I could to get back to her.
There are a lot of fun steampunk devices in this book along with interesting chemical and biological experiments. I enjoyed them all and at times was reminded a bit of the magical shenanigans at Hogwart’s with Ron’s trickster older twin brothers. Being a chemist/engineer and a woman, I loved that Violet worked so hard to get women at a technical level equal to her fellow male students. This book really clicked with me and I really enjoyed the premise behind it.
When I started the book I hoped that more of it was going to be focused on the mystery behind the school’s basement; in the end I thought the whole mystery behind the basement was a bit anti-climatic. I was surprised that the majority of the story focused on Violet’s day to day life and all the excitement that held for everyone involved. I was incredibly pleased at the ending of the book; the readers are treated to a rather spectacular battle scene that had more action in a few pages than in the entirety of the rest of the book.
The book ended wonderfully. Everything was nicely wrapped up. I am not certain if a sequel is planned, but the book was wrapped up well-enough that one isn’t needed. I think the book would be appropriate for older young adults and up; there is some swearing, some bawdy humor, and some discussion of sex acts.
Overall this was a spectacular read. The book is exquisitely written with beautiful descriptions and witty dialogue that really make the story come alive; this makes this book a slow read but a wonderful one. The characters are absolutely wonderful; I was especially drawn to Violet and her desire to make it as a technically adept woman in a male dominated field. The intertwining love stories remind of The Importance of Being Earnest or even some of Jane Austen’s works. Those who love that type of Victorian style of writing should check this out. Fans of steampunk stories should check this out as well, there are a ton of wonderful devices in this book. Fans of stories about young woman dressing as men to make it in a all male school may also want to check out The Education of Bet (fluffier than this book but still a fun read). I will definitely be reading future books by Rossen.