Character List from The Steampunk Chronicles series:
Finley Jayne – a former ladies’ maid whose dual natures of light and darkness battle for dominance. The darkness manifests itself as extraordinary strength, combat abilities and an attraction to danger and the criminal world.
Griffin King – an orphaned duke with unlimited financial resources at his disposal. Griffin is the leader of a group of misfits and has the ability to act as a conduit for the Aether.
Cordelia, Lady Marsden – Griffin’s aunt, a powerful telepath.
Sam Morgan – Griffin’s best friend. He’s incredibly strong and able to heal quickly, in part because he’s part machine.
Emily – possibly Finley’s closest friend. She’s an inventor extraordinaire and has a secret crush on one of the boys. Shhh!
Finley Jayne and her friends have traveled to NYC to rescue a friend who is in over their head with bounty hunters. A dangerous, very steampunk-y artifact has been stolen, dismantled, and hidden away and the one person who knows its location is now in the hands of the man he stole it from, and he wants it back! Finley must infiltrate the gangster’s crew to discover what the artifact is and rescue their friend, and his girl (Mei) who they’re holding hostage too, and somehow prevent the gangsters from getting the device. Can Finley balance the light and dark sides of her personality while undercover or will the criminal element pull out the worst in her?
I’m not a big fan of using pronouns but since book one leaves off on a cliffhanger and Cross’ book cover copy doesn’t identify WHO is at risk, I’d rather respect the author’s intent and not say who it is that’s in trouble. Suffice to say, if you’ve read The Girl in the Steel Corset (link), then you’ll already know.
Opening with some beautiful imagery of New York City (viewed aerially), there’s a lot of colorful moments that really stand out in my mind, long after I’ve finished reading the book. These are what some authors call “candy bar moments” and they definitely sweeten the storyline for the steampunk fan.
Although this book’s central conflict is the rescue of their friend, the underlying, or perhaps overarching conflict of the series are the relationships between the characters in this group of misfits, and that gets further developed here. Finley is still garnering notice from Griffin King (her English Duke) and Jack Dandy (the crinimal from book 1). Emily meets a match for her intelligence and Sam gets jealous. And then there’s Jasper…
What I liked best about The Girl in the Clockwork Collar was the introduction of new technologies that use the Aether and that are indeed, dangerous if not deadly. Speculate all you like, but steampunk fans will LOVE some of the new characters introduced here. I get lost at the almost madcap-like simplicity of the villain’s scheme and his attempts towards the climax are almost comical if not for Griffin’s intervention.
Maybe that’s where my problem with the story is… that things go unquestioned, untried. Mei, a girl caught in the crosshairs of a gangster’s revenge, is forced to wear a clockwork collar that if triggered, will choke her to death. Gruesome. But she doesn’t act like a girl terrified for her life either so I was really confused about her situation.
Although the book is a departure from London and the group’s saving of the Queen, I rather miss the old crew and the antics they get into. New York City just doesn’t have the same mood. In book 3, as I understand it, the group returns to London and their arch-enemy makes a reappearance. With the exception of the romantic developments between Finley and Griffin (definitely worth your time!), and between Sam and Emily (so cute!), you could almost skip this book entirely and rush straight to the finale. If you’re like me, you want more Jack Dandy, Griffin and Finley drama.
But if you’re the sort of person who prefers a tale with flying machines, Irish street gangs, and devices by a certain well-known inventor of the time, well, then I suppose you really SHOULD pick up a copy and read this. Then let me know what you think about it. I’ll be waiting.