MechanicaMechanica by Betsy Cornwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Retelling
Series: Info Below
Publisher: Clarion Books
Purchase: Book Depository

There are no spoilers in this review.

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.

Mechanica is a really great, steampunk retelling of Cinderella that also throws in a lot more magic than you’d guess from the description. The kingdom in which it is set is struggling to replace the recently outlawed – because of the murders of the queen and prince – magic they had been relying on with machines, which is where the exposition comes in. Throw in a prince who has never been seen by his subjects and Nick’s mother’s death that could have been prevented if her father had used magic and you have the complex backdrop of the story.

There is, unfortunately, a love triangle, and I wasn’t a huge fan of it or how it was played out. Parts of it were pretty predictable and some of it was just bizarre and unlikeable. On the whole, its not the worst (or even in the bottom half) of the love triangles I’ve experienced.

The twist on the glass slippers was one of the best I’ve ever experieneced. They’re seriously cool and I honestly wouldn’t mind having some like them of my own. There’s no fairy-godmother to step in and do all of the ‘magic’ for Mechanica, she does it all herself (with a little help from Jules and his ‘minions’), creating dresses and even her horse and carriage.



The titular and main character. Unlike in many versions of the tale, the main character is named Nicolette (which is then shortened to ‘Nick’ and she is given the name Mechanica (mechanic + nick ) by her step family in the same way ‘Ella’ is named ‘Cinder-ella’). 

She’s stubborn once she gets going, and over comes a lot of adversary to get what she wants. Nothing gets her down, at least not permanently. And even though some of it can be chalked up to fate or random coincidence, almost all of what Mechanica gets she works her tail off for.


Fin is hiding something, and what exactly was painfully obvious to me from the very start. He’s very intelligent and kind to Mechanica, even though its hinted he may have stolen a thing or two from her (@ author can I have some clarity please?)


Despite the rather androgynous name, Caro is a female and a lifelong friend of Fin. She’s bouncy and funny and reminded me of the Weasleys from Harry Potter in the best way.

The Steps

Mechanica’s step-family. Although she is initally rather optimistic about them, they are worse than most of their counterparts in other Cinderella stories, in my opinion.

Jules II

Mechanica’s first real friend, Jules is a mechanical horse built by her mother that has a mind of his own and becomes an integral part of her learning the art of machinery. He has quite the little personality, despite not being able to speak.


There’s not much info up on the possible continuation of the series, however, it does leave you wanting a sequel and Goodreads has posted a book titled “Venturess” that it claims will be out spring of 2017 and will be a sequel.

Mechanica II: Betsy Cornwell’s two companion novels to MECHANICA, the first following an inventor and her friends to the war-torn nation of Faerie, where they uncover heartbreaking secrets and struggle to stay together as their loyalties shift, for publication in spring 2017.


If you like Cinderella, steampunk, or fantasy I think you’ll love this.

My friend refuses to read this because, and I quote, “it sounds too much like The Lunar Chronicles by Marissia Meyer” and even though I’ve not read that yet, after reading Mechanica I can say this seems much more steampunk/fantasy than the sci-fi/dystopia theme of The Lunar Chronicles (from what I’ve been told). Honestly it is as unique as any retelling and that is simply as unique as you let it be. The biggest downfall of retellings is comparisons, to enjoy them you have to treat them all as separate entities.


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