Narrator: Leslie Bellair
Series: Inventor's Secret #1
Published by Penguin Audio on April 22, 2014
Genres: Steampunk, Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 7 hours, 34 minutes
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Sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape from the coastal cities or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.
The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery.
When I happen upon a steampunk novel with mainstream popularity, I get very excited. Maybe it’s my love of historical romance and fantasy that draws me to stories where steam power was not eclipsed by the combustion engine, or maybe I just like the costumes. It was with a sense of impending adventure I began The Inventor’s Secret, a young adult steampunk novel by Andrea Cremer and the first in The Inventor’s Secret series.
The excitement starts post-haste, when Charlotte rescues a mysterious boy pursued by diabolical machines, leading to a mad dash through the forest and into the network of caves Charlotte calls home. She’s part of a band of children hiding from the imperial government that means to punish anyone who participated in the failed American Revolution and their descendants. While Charlotte’s older brother Ash is the leader of the group, she soon discovers that Jack, a maverick newcomer and her brother have been hatching a plan which has the power to turn the world upside down.
The author does a wonderful job of feeding details through conversation and action that allows one to gather a sense of the world, rather than laying down all the facts up front. I really enjoyed the alternative history created by Ms. Cremer in this story and the government and social hierarchy that might result had imperialism ruled. Her characters were well developed and believable in their motivations and actions.
As the story progresses, however, a couple of points prevented me from enjoying the story. While initially there had been allusion to technologies, these were never developed further. Machines were mentioned, but mostly in passing. I’d have liked more detail on the devices and how they were integrated into daily life. Although it was clear there was a romantic element to Charlotte and Jack’s relationship, this ended up being a significantly larger part of the book than I expected. I might even say that the mystery and technology aspects took a back seat to what ended up being a typical young adult love triangle, which was disappointing.
While I was underwhelmed by The Inventor’s Secret overall, I feel the series has enough potential to give the next installment a try.
The narration was satisfactory as was the pacing. The narrator’s voice accurately depicted Charlotte, however, it was harder to hear the nuances between the other characters. I might even say this might be a book easier to read rather than to listen to on audio.
Listen to a clip: HERE
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