Review: Rebel Mechanics – British Magic and Colonial Inventions

Posted July 8, 2015 in Reading, Review / 0 Comments

Review: Rebel Mechanics – British Magic and Colonial InventionsRebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
Series: Rebel Mechanics #1
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (2015)
eARC (320 pages)
Via: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: Read 2015


A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children’s young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

Find the book: Goodreads

My Review

This book is set in New York City in the late 1800s. It follows an alternate history had the British nobles controlled magic. If the British nobility had magic, the American colonists wouldn’t have stood a chance during the Revolutionary War. This is an interesting idea.

Verity, the daughter of a Yale professor decides to head to New York City to find employment as a governess. Aboard the train to the city, Verity comes face to face with masked bandits. Instead of being the meek lady, Verity uses her bag to whack the leader. Not the typical or expected response.

Then in New York City Verity ends up aboard a new means of transportation, a steam locomotive bus. She discovers it is the steam engine’s maiden run and the inventors are part of the treasonous Rebel Mechanics. They are a group that plots the overthrow of the British nobility by replacing magic with inventions.

Verity finally finds employment with a magister family, one of the magic-wielding British nobility. He employer is the eccentric Lord Henry. Lord Henry is an avid entomologist and seems quite socially inept. Though not much older than Verity, Henry is the gaurdian of his late brother’s three children: Flora, Rollo, and Olive.

On a walk through Central Park, Verity officially meets Alec, the inventor of the steam bus, and Lizzie, a reporter for the illegal rebel newspaper. These two become her friends in a world where she doesn’t know quite who to trust.

Verity is given some difficult choices. Will she side with the Rebel Mechanics? Will she share her secrets? Will she risk her job for what she believes is right?

I don’t read much steampunk. Scratch that. This is the first steampunk novel I have ever read. I enjoyed this book quite a lot and I absolutely adore the gorgeous cover.

Catholic Connections

*Spoiler Alert*
In order to analyze the text and make these connections, there may be some spoilers.
Please do not continue reading unless you have already read the book
or you don’t mind if you read some spoilers.
*Spoiler Alert*

Verity is a Latin word that means truth. I think the name fits Verity very well. She wants to be able to tell the truth and see the truth but she is in a world where that truth can be very, very dangerous to her. Her bravery comes when she has to make the choice to help the revolution and her friends by revealing her deepest secret or to stay silent and save herself. She makes the choice to reveal her secret, the secret that could end her very life. That is bravery.

The choices Verity makes in this book are based on her feelings for people. Her decisions are not based on some abstract political ideas but rather on protecting people. She sees the dignity and worth of every person, even the poor from the slums, and does what she can to help them.

I guess what I am trying to get at is the Verity acts selflessly. She is more concerned about other people than herself, especially as the book progresses. Lord Henry is similar. He makes some risky choices to help the revolution because he isn’t overly worried about himself. In the end, he does realize that he needs to be more careful to protect the children.

Which Reading Challenges?

  • You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge


I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration. This in no way affects my opinion of the title nor the content of this review.

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