Description from Goodreads:

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 by Betsy Cornwall has 304 pages and was published in 2015 by Clarion Books.

This book may have the most gorgeous cover I have ever seen. It is absolutely breathtaking.  I had never heard of this book but I noticed it while browsing in my local library. That cover grabbed my attention and after reading Mechanica, I am so glad it did.

Mechanica is a beautifully written steam punk retelling of Cinderella. We all know the basic outline of Cinderella:

  • Sweet, beautiful orphan is abused by step-family
  • Fairy Godmother grants her wish to go to the ball
  • Cinderella dances the night away with the prince
  • She flees at the stroke of midnight losing her slipper in the process
  • Prince searches the kingdom and eventually finds his true-love
  • Prince marries Cinderella, rescuing her from her life of drudgery
  • They live happily ever after

While Cornwall incorporates many of those basics, her novel is presented in a wholly unique way that breathes new life into a tale as old as time. It is easy to get lost in this story of triumph over tragedy. The writing is fluid and easy to follow. There are twists that differ from the original story line culminating in a refreshingly new presentation of the classic fairy tale.

Nicolette is not your run-of-the-mill damsel in distress. True, she is living in less than pleasant circumstances but rather than follow the usual do-nothing plan of waiting to be rescued, she forms a plan to rescue herself. I love that Nicollete was able to make her dreams come true without having to be rescued by a prince in shining armor.

The ending of this book does not follow the traditional ending of Cinderella. As often as we have all heard this tale, it is impossible not to root for the happy ending we all know and love. However, it would have been disingenuous to the characters of this book to follow those antiquated notions of true love when those emotions clearly did not exist.

Recommended for fans of modern fairy tales with female leads that demonstrate how hard work and determination can still lead to happily ever after – with or without Prince Charming!

Rating: 5 Plot Monster Spiders


Notable Quotes:

“I do the same with my books…Nothing like a good argument in the margins with someone who’s already said all they have to say on the subject.”
― Betsy CornwellMechanica

“The love between friends could create life.”
― Betsy CornwellMechanica

MDW original review. Source: Library.

7 thoughts on “Mechanica

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